The task theme given was Taboo or Not Taboo. In my drawing ‘Fool’s Gold’ (figure 1) I focused on the how people tend to shun others when they try to break the labels that have been placed onto them. I thought this is to be a taboo as breaking your stereotype becomes prohibited and uncommon. Normann O’ Flynn played a significant role in inspiring this drawing in the form of his tattooed subject matter, compositions and the confrontational stances of his figures as he also focuses on entrapment. Imitating his tattooed figures added great visual interest and symbolic value to my work.
In my second yearwork (figure 7) I focused on the impact that our parents have on our identity and broke the taboo of teenagers not wanting to acknowledge the importance that their parents have had on their lives. Tracey Emin inspired me greatly, mainly with her work ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With” (figure 11), to draw a room of objects instead of drawing a portrait or figure. By observing her work, I was able to create an “internal” view of my world representing my relationship with my parents and the impact this has had on me.
I feel that as teenagers we are expected to be whom everyone else expects us to be and when we try to be our true selves, we get looked down upon. Therefore breaking out of our stereotypes become a taboo. We get trapped by the opinions of others. This theme is in some ways similar to O’ Flynn’s works ‘Timekeeper 83’ (figure 5) and ‘Timekeeper 100’ (figure 6) where his figures are entrapped. I was inspired by this entrapment displayed in O’ Flynn’s work which was not obvious but rather subtle, used for “exploring complicated modern society.” (Glyn-Jones, 2017).
I then wanted to focus on identity and the influence that parents have on one’s identity and so in my second yearwork, I acknowledged the impact that my parents have had on who I am. The intimate relationships and moments shared with my parents are represented by specific images and the composition came out as a room. This was greatly influenced by Emin’s ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With’ (figure 11) as she uses an installation of a tent, embroidered with the names of everyone she has ever shared a bed with to create a new inner world for the viewer to enter. My space was not physical but was rather depicted in my drawing of a bathroom yet it shares the same intense and personal atmosphere as Emin’s. This is due to the fact that the space clearly belongs to someone yet is absent of a figure. You feel the presence of a person yet they cannot physically be seen.”When visitors left the tent, they thought about their own personal tent and their own list of colorful names representing old emotional connections, losses, and secrets” (Romero, n.d). The fabrics used in her work would have brought her comfort in times of sadness just as the objects used in my artwork demonstrate intimate moments and emotions. The bath represents my mom as she is warm and comforting. My dad is represented by the music books as we connect through music (figure 10). The candles speak of the ritual and the passing of time (figure 9). A bathroom is a place where one is most vulnerable and shows the intimacy of family relationships. Similarly to ‘My Bed’ (figure 12), it is a space where life’s messes can be reflected upon to gain clarity.
My drawing was done with graphite pencil and demonstrated clear regions of different tonality and contrast. Although O’ Flynn uses acrylic paint, he has very clearly separated areas of colour and so whilst my work is monochromatic, the tonality and contrast is similar. I incorporated strong mark-making in the shirt and hands which created visual texture. The golden skeleton leaves were also used to create tactile texture as well as the paper flowers. I drew the diamond with the graphite pencil and then put clear nail polish over them to add sheen. This indicates that the fence we get placed behind by others isn’t something physical but is rather imagined and internalised and this is why the suggestion of the chain link fence needed to be ambiguous . The fence indicates that I am stuck just as the masks covering the figures’ mouths in O’ Flynn’s works indicate entrapment.
In my second yearwork, I also used graphite pencil and then projected a video over my drawing. Mark-making and intense contrast was used to create texture. The intense contrast is especially evident in the chandelier, making it look like naturalistic crystal. The chandelier is illuminating the space of the bathroom, just as Emin uses an artificial light to illuminate the space of her tent. I then projected a video of water in many phases as well as a rising moon. The water represents my identity formation and demonstrates how fluid and flexible it is. I have used four different phases of water to show that it is never static but rather always changing, like my identity which is forming. The overlayed moon represents the influence that my parents have had on my identity, just as the moon has an influence over the tides. An audio of water was also included to enhance the meaning of the work and to make the viewer engage more within a very intimate and private space. The video is in colour so that the viewer will be able to see all the elements of the video and the drawing. If the video was also monochromatic, the artwork would be very difficult to understand visually as the video and drawing would not distinguishable.
In my drawing, I started by focussing on the perceptions people have of me versus real traits that I have. I found various symbols for each of the traits and then placed them in relevant areas in my body. However, this was not saying what I needed it to. After looking at O’ Flynn’s ‘Timekeeper 100’ (figure 6) and noticing the movement and interest that the raised hand added to the work, I decided to also include raised hands entangled in the chain link fence in my composition. This would make it evident to the viewer that I am trapped. I also only included positive symbols in very relevant areas and added in the idea of the tactile flowers and leaves to enhance the meaning of my work as much as possible for the viewer. The flowers represent my compassion and they are made of tissue paper as listening, speaking or acting with compassion is a gift and hence the flowers are condensed around my ears, mouth and hands. The leaves surrounding the figure show how we need to brush off false perceptions and labels that others have and I feel that this brushing off would be easily understood by the viewer. They needed to be tactile to show that they are a separate entity that can be pushed away.
My second yearwork also started out with my original idea including a portrait of me rising out of water, a mirror, a tank and body prints of my parents. However the stagnant water in the tank was the opposite of what I was trying to say and the portrait of me showed little development from my last work. After looking at Emin’s ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With’ (figure 11) and ‘My Bed’ (figure 12) I realised that a composition without a figure could convey emotions and intimacy just as well as, if not better than, a composition with a figure. ”Emin’s piece is less about sexual intimacy, as it is about general human intimacy.” (Souter, 2019). I then delved into what in my life represents my parents and the intimate moments shared between us and from there, developed my composition. I decided to not include a figure into my composition as it creates questioning and curiosity in the viewer. They ponder over why the room is lacking a figure and the work therefore leaves a bigger impact on them. I then decided to project a video of flowing water and water of many different phases as this would clearly relate to the metaphor of the fluidity of water which is compared to the fluidity of identity formation.
In my drawing, I portray my feelings of frustration and defiance towards being trapped in the way others see me. Similarly, O’ Flynn’s works shows figures in extremely confrontational poses that look directly at the viewer, “conveying a tough attitude and social value against the violence and darkness in the world.” (WorldArt, 2019). The fact that me, trying to portray my true self to the world, is seen as a taboo is not okay; everyone should be free to be themselves without judgement from others. I have personally had people tell me that I am this or that I am that when in actual fact, I am not that at all. This is very frustrating because as I am trying to reflect my true self into the world, people are still choosing to believe the stereotypes about me that aren’t true. This is therefore an important issue to address as no one should have to be anyone but themselves.
I wanted to dedicate this artwork to my parents in order to acknowledge how important they are to me and how great their influence has been on my life. Like Emin, I am revealing very personal feelings and emotions through this work. Teenagers especially hate to acknowledge their parents and the topic of parents becomes a taboo. I however am showing others that our parents play such an important role in who we are and that they need to recognise and respect this because none of us would be where we are without them. They are a part of who we are.
I used graphite pencil in a similar style to O’ Flynn as well as gold paint, skeleton leaves and tissue paper. The pencil was used to draw the figure in a realistic manner and the highly graphic approach to contrast is similar to O’ Flynn’s adjacent areas of bold colour. The skeleton leaves then form the background and flowers were made out of the paper and placed in relevant areas. The gold paint draws the viewer’s attention to certain areas and creates unity and integration throughout the work. I used a black frame to enhance the tonality and to give the work a look of finality, without interfering with the actual subject matter.
In my second yearwork, I did a graphite pencil drawing then projected a video over it. I used graphite pencil to allow for as much realism as possible as this would create the atmosphere present in Emin’s works. Unlike Emin’s works, where the viewer could enter the physical spaces the viewer and easily project themselves into the works, my bathroom needs to look realistic and hence the use of graphite pencil so that I engage the viewer and draw them into this conceptual space. As the fluidity of water is prevalent to my message, I decided to use a video of flowing water. This allowed me to have real flowing water as well as the different phases of water enhanced by the audio of running water. This also makes the work slightly more interactive, engaging and visually appealing for the viewer, which is something that I wanted to achieve, as the viewer needs to think about the meaning of the work.
Normann O’ Flynn, along with many other artists, greatly inspired my use of symbols and my highly graphic approach to contrast in my drawing. Tracey Emin inspired my use of inanimate objects to represent people and intimate moments. She helped me to realise that you don’t need a figure to carry a personal meaning in an artwork.