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Francis Bacon 

Self-Portrait, 1971, oil on canvas 

The way the self-portrait is painted disfigures and mutilates the facial features of the artist himself. Chaotic, bold brushstrokes create a sensation of stress and tension within the image. The artificial colours within the face (blue, orange and purple) also contribute to the alienated appearance. The fact that the portrait is painted against the plain, monochrome background accentuates and places emphasis on the portrait itself, which is why the portrait stands out a lot more. 

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Egon Schiele 

'Self-Portrait', 1911

Watercolour, gouache and graphite on paper 

 

I found it to be a really unusual representation of the self because it visually seems that the artist willingly uglified himself. The combination of nudity and pretended, artificial body language look extremely visceral and aggressive to me. The darkened skin tones can allude to scars, bruises and inflammation; consequently, the portrayal becomes vicious and ill-disposed, on the verge of agony, pain and suffering. 

Finally, the whole figure is outlined by a fine, white contour as if constricting and caging the character in space.

The eyes appear to look darkened, offset and oversize, whereas the mouth suggest a gesture of scream. Considering all the above elements altogether, I would say that the overall expression of the figure is 'desperate'. 

 

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Rudolf Schwarzkogler 

'3rd Action', 1965

The artist depicted himself via a half-naked body folded on itself in a really uncomfortable way. The body language constricts the body and encloses it in a small space. The figure is partially wrapped in bandages, which suggests concealing and covering oneself. 

The bandaging, wires and the hospital bed act as attributes and symbols of a clinical aesthetic. Within the context it conveys a ritualistic performance. 

As the artist himself explained, the performance had a lot to say about repressed desires, thus the performance is created out of acts, which break the taboos and subverts the social norms. 

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Salvador Dali

Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon, 1941

Dali' s self-portrait is really amusing considering the fact that he would constantly dwell on the idea of his own genius. He was surely aware of his fame and his public image, hence this self-portrait could be interpreted as a self-irony. 

In fact, Dali's appearance was eccentric and instantly memorable, thus soft organic slice of fried bacon metamorphosing into a face would come as a sense of surprise - common to Dali. 

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Pierre Molinier 

'Self-Portrait with a Spur of Love', c.1976 

 

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Marc Quinn, 'Self', 1991

The sculpture of the artist's head is made of 9.5 pints of his own frozen blood taken from his body over a period of time. The fact that he used his own blood alludes to the idea that a self-portrait is in a way a self-sacrifice. It literally portrays an idea of how an artist 'spends' himself when creating.

The technique instantly shocks and provokes its viewer, which is really striking and confrontational. A self portrait which involves a tremendous amount of commitment and dedication. 

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Felix Nadar 
'Revolving Self-Portrait', 1865 

I really enjoy the idea that a viewer is able to perceive a portrait from different viewpoints, thus the self-portrait becomes a lot more comprehensive. The concept of multiple sides is really dynamic as opposed to a static image. 
The grid formation creates a sense of clear order and structure. 

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Alejandro Jodorowsky. 'El Topo', 1970 

Jodorowsky himself spoke of this appearance as 'the art of transformation' and I am really stricken by the rough, crude combination of masculine and feminine within the image. 
I must emphasise that this appearance is away from androgyny (genderless) but towards a rough representation of self. 

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Damian Ortega, 'The Cosmic Thing', 2002 

I enjoy the visual effect of a deconstruction, which separates each and every element, and therefore depicts the object in an unusual way and challenges how an object can be presented. The fact that all the details are suspended creates almost a sense of stopped time, which is a curious approach to use. 

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William Kentridge, 'The Refusal of Time', 2014

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Katie Holland Lewis, 'Tangled Pathways', 2006. 

I found it a simple but very effective way to create rich narrative and a surface rich in texture through a diagram (mapping) approach. 

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Anthropometries 1960, Yves Klein (performance)

To me it is a really strong and striking performance to drag the body against the floor staining paint. It portrays an idea of a performer as a victim of performance, which gets me intrigued as a viewer. Paint on the body can have lot of different connotations and symbolisms and I consider using it when presenting my own work.

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Arman, 'Home Sweet Home', 1960 


I find a lot of power in a visual effect of multiples of the same object, because the identical look and repetition of these objects imply dominance and togetherness. The work stops being about the object and starts being about the massive quantity and its symbolisms, such as collection, mass-production, mass media and possibly Pop culture.

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Sigmar Polke, Untitled (Palermo), 1976, Leon Koenig Inc.

The artist offers a view of what is happening after death, which is exactly the essence of all bizarre and unknown. The two corpses are captured in a rather mundane scene, which perhaps suggests the ordinariness and inevitability of death. The old photograph, creased and stained all over, creates a sense of past and long distance in time, which turns the artist into an observer, a witness. 

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Adolf Luther, 'Spiegelobjekt mit licht', 1974 

The work creates a continuous and constantly changing visual experience in which light acts as as a reflection and as a moving element. I think, the strongest point about the work is the fact that it explores visual qualities and functions of light. By arranging a sequence of glass panels with a backlight the artist seems to be questioning: What can a light do? How does it affect what we visualise? 

I am really fond of artworks which are inquisitive and show the curiosity of the artist venturing into the unknown. 

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The work shows a consistent and strong use of line, sequence and tone. The smooth and gradual graduation of tone in combination with overlapping and overlaying creates the strongest visual illusion. Because the work features no high colour contrast (unlike many Op artworks), it metaphorically slows the viewer down and hypnotises the viewer into itself. 

I. as v viewer, find it a really immense experience, especially if the image was on a large surface, which would strengthen its impact. I really want to explore similar techniques to reinterpret these in a textile print and later incorporate in a garment. 

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Julian Stanczak 

I am fascinated by the continuous repetition of line and strong contrast between orange and black. The choice of orange in this case I think is especially successful as orange is considered the brightest colour. Although the artist used the line to create multiple curves and bends, the sequence and repetition is kept continuous in the work, and in this way both organic and geometric shapes meet in one pattern. I think, this is a lot more enriched and versatile than a pattern consisting of solid geometry. 

Curves and sequence interact in the way that these visually push certain areas of the work forward (towards the viewer), whereas pull other areas backwards (into the background). This visual effect creates a relief and a sense of trick behind the work, which must be challenging the viewer's imagination. 

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Victor Vasarely 

The work distorts a sense of perception and offers three-minensional appearance of the surface, which is achieved by the use of geometry as well as the tone and depth. In this work, I think, Vasarely questions what is the truth behind an optical illusion within the artwork. 

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I am impressed by the fact that the artist created such a strong visual impact using the minimal shades and lines. The circular repetition appeals the most to me, because it leads the viewers eye to move spiralling inwards and outwards the work. 

It is really fascinating and powerful to me if the work actually directs the viewer's gaze because it implies that the work has a certain power over a viewer. 

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Olafur Eliasson 
The Weather Project 2003 

The part that stands out to me is the fact the the artist managed to visually unify the whole large room by the use of warm, dissipating light in space. The space almost creates a reality of its own via a strong consistent aesthetic. 

The powerful element is the large scale of both space and light which massively exceed the size of a person. If I had a change to experience the installation, I think, I would be stricken by the absolute grandeur and dominance of the space. The gigantic scale of the place exceeds the human size so much to the point where it might make a human feel small and insignificant. This notion really reminds me of the experience of places of worship, such as a cathedral or a mosque. 

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Bruce Nauman, 'Green Light Corridor', 1970 

To me the idea of a space overfit by a light has a lot of symbolisms and connotation. Green in particular creates a cinematic, almost a set-up and artificial appearance of the whole place. The idea of a corridor naturally constricts a viewer and intervenes with their personal space, which can create a really disturbing experience. I think, the bright lights at the top of the corridor will visually accentuate and emphasise a viewer as they go through it. It returns the work to the power of the space and vulnerability of the viewer, which is a powerful approach to use, whether as art or a part of a presentation. 

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Phil Webster, Islamic Pattern Design 

I became really fascinated by these Islamic designs because on one hand they incorporate elaborate and sophisticated details, however, they still follow a pristine geometric look, which is a really satisfying contrast of the two. The patterns not only explore the nature of geometry but also include the visual elements important for and symbolic of Islam, such as a shape of a circle or a fractal star. The overall visual effect creates a sense of multitude and plurality, which perhaps echoes the strength and togetherness of Islam today as well as historically. 

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Edvard Munch 

'Self-Portrait with Cigarette', 1895, oil on canvas 

The artist portrayed himself as a vulnerable and somewhat afraid in the painting. The gaze of the figure illustrates hesitation and perplexity as if scarcely staring at the viewer. The tones selected for the paining itself are dark and blurred out, which results in the figure almost blending with and fading into the background. Metaphorically, it can symbolise the sense of vulnerability which I suggested. 

 Additionally, the facial expression of the figure is rather quite desensitised, which possibly suggests that the artist did not wish to reveal or express his emotional state. 

In contrast to the dark shades and tones, which prevail in the painting, the face and the hand of the artist are floodlit by a white, rather disturbing light. This creates additional tension within the overall atmosphere. 

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Günter Brus

Self-Painting (Film Action), 1964 

I really enjoy the aggressive gestures of the artist cutting and painting himself, which acts as a really connotational and symbolic body language. The monochrome face and body create a visceral appearance as if frightening both the artist and the viewer. 

The objects, such as knife and axe strengthen the sensation of violence. 

The artist knowingly disregarded norms and taboos in order to shock the viewer. This action performs the essence of self-harm and self-violation. I think, it is visually really powerful and striking because of the fact that the artist becomes a victim of his own art.

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Claude Cahun 

'Self-Portrait', silver gelatine print on paper, 1929 

I am, as a viewer, stunned and confused because of the fact that I am trying to figure out a gender of a figure. The monochrome and emotionless appearance as well as the gender-bending hair, make-up and outfit all contribute to a truly androgynous statement. The artist conveys the idea of blurring the boundaries between the genders and question the necessity of gender labels. 

Androgyny today is a lot more common, yet still an issue, however, in the context of late 1920's I can imagine it was the strongest statement of gender identity. 

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Marilyn Manson 

When I Get Old I Would Like a Drink (Self-Portrait), 2002, watercolour on paper 

This is one of the most sarcastic self-portraits I have seen because of the fact that the artist painted it aged 40, however imagined and depicted himself as an old man. It could be a self-mockery due to the artist's past drugs and alcohol abuse, and the artist could have humorously imagined what his lifestyle might drive him to. A sense of time therefore becomes distorted in this painting because of the dissonance between the real self and the imaginable self. 

In contrast to dark humour underpinning the painting, ill, artificial skin tone and exaggerated facial features, the use of watercolour creates really soft, rather delicate brushstrokes and lines, as well as the smooth graduation of tone. The contrast is therefore present not only in the concept but in the technique, too, which is why the image becomes so striking and impactful.

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Luciano Castelli 

'Reptil Blau' (Self-Portrait), 1975 (photo taken with self-timer)

A smooth, comforting atmosphere is portrayed by delicate tones, low colour contrast and submissive body language. I am really impressed by the sensation of tenderness and delicacy. 

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Ken Currie 
'Gallowgate Lard', 1995-6
Oil and beeswax on canvas 

I am impressed by the fact that the artist turned away from the idea of beautification but instead represented himself in a visceral, rather morbid manner. The chiaroscuro technique within the painting creates an extreme contrast between the light and the darkness, which results in a frightening visual effect. 
I really admire an approach of frightening a viewer, and this would be the one I would like to use to portray myself. 

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Albrecht Dürer. 'Self-Portrait', 1500. Oil on panel. 

Dürer's self-portrait visually appears incredibly accurate and precise, measured and centred as well as symmetric. This strongly portrays class and status suggesting that the artist hold himself to a high regard. 
The self-portrait features a stunning resemblance, hyperrealism and attention to detail, which shows how much dedication has gone into the work, and this has a lot to say about the artist's ego. 

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Christian Boltanski 

I enjoy the dark and sinister atmosphere within the work, which especially comes through shades, shadows and rusty colours. The high contrast between the shining lights and the ghostly visages creates a really visceral appearance. 

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Louisa Nevelson 
'Royal Tide I', 1960

The monochromatic approach within the work is visually striking and confrontation to me as to a viewer. I am impressed by the technique of collecting different shapes, textures and scales but finally unifying them into one strong message. I would want to explore this technique in which a lot of different details become visually unified by the same tone or colour. 

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Nancy Holt, 'Sun Tunnels', 1973-6


The strongest point about this work is the fact that it's sight-specific and it visually merges with the landscape that surrounds it. It implements geometry into nature and the two organically become one. I also enjoy the interplay of light and shadow in relation to the geometric shapes.
 

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Chiharu Shiota, 'The Way into Silence', 2003


The use of thread is dark and mysterious in this work because it turns an object into rather a silhouette and casts shadows. Obscuring and raveling a shape may have a connotation to creating a mystery or secret around it, which comes through a dream-like appearance.

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Jenny Saville, 'Closed Contact', 1995

The look of the skin pressed against the glass deforms and distorts the skin itself. The appearance of the body therefore becomes visually forced and compelled as if against the model's will. The way the artist distorted her own face and hands might symbolise aggression and violence to the body.

The overall look of squashed flash somehow reminds me of cosmetic and plastic surgeries which entail alteration of the body. I can take this approach into consideration; when I present work on the body, I might manipulate the flesh, the surface of the skin or the body itself to strengthen the context of the presentation. 

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Douglas Huebler, contact sheet: 'Oxford Street 1975' (detail)

I really enjoy a sense of mapping and recording throughout the contact sheet, and a strong sense of narrative emerging within it. The fact that the imagery is arranged in a grid creates a sensation of constant surveillance and control. Different colour schemes, such as sepia, b/w and turquoise portray a sense of chance and accident as well as suggest past and history. 

I find it a powerful tool to record information chronologically and in a grid because it has a clear, direct narrative and amplifies consciousness. 

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Gerard Richter, 'Stained Glass Window', 2007 (Cologne Cathedral)

I am impressed by the way the artist created a true light spectacle and fully explored the sensual qualities of light and colour. Because light is constantly changing, it is constantly challenging and altering the overall picture, thus the experience of light naturally becomes the main subject of the work. 

In addition to that, to me this is a great example of art in terms of research and reference because of the intellectual way the artist borrowed, adopted, reworked and realised the idea. The look of traditional stained glass windows always implies elaborate and representational details, such as the figures of biblical characters and the writing that supports it. The artist, however, borrowed the generic visual effect of the stained glass but totally simplified and abstracted its subject-matter to the point where it became digital-looking and pixelated. It is really satisfying to watch this transition of a historic stained window look metamorphosing into its contemporary interpretation. 

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Adolf Luther, 'Laserraum', 1972 

The installation almost acts as a experiment on both light and matter. The artist used lenses and reflecting objects to explore the capabilities of light and document light in movement. 

I could incorporate the relation between light and movement as a prop to presenting or documenting my own work. The light will definitely affect the amount and quality of details portrayed as well as will affect the overall atmosphere of the image. 

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The work explores the qualities of light and surface, but the most unique and impressive part to me is the fact that as the light changes, changes the visual appearance of the work itself. In fact, the work never stays the same and constantly responds to the changes of light or its absence. The relief in combination with light creates a sense of a third dimension, which continuously deludes the viewer. 

I really enjoy the technique in visual arts where the work visually confuses the viewer and makes them question what they actually see. I want to incorporate relief and reflective materials in my own practice and explore their relationship with light. 

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Francois Morellet 

Francois Morellet devant son oeuvre Répartition aleatoire de 40000 carres suivant les chiffres pairs et impairs d'un annuaire de telephone, 50% bleu, 50% rouge, 1963 (huile sur toile)

Francois Morellet in front of his work 'Random Distribution of 40,000 Squares Using the Odd and Even Number of a Telephone Directory, 50% blue, 50% red, 1963 (oil on canvas)

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It is a curious fact that the artist created the work based on the principles of mathematics, kinetic and optical art, however, he allowed the chance and accident to influence and direct his work. Because blue and red have an equal colour intensity, putting the two together created a dazzling contrast of two colours visually pushing almost fighting one another. It was smart as well to present the work on a scale on a room (as opposed to a small fact surface), because as a viewer enters the room, they would be bombarded by the dazzling contrast and intensity of the colours from all directions and viewpoints. It must be an immense experience.  

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This is a sophisticated pattern which features a lot of small and intricate details. At first glance all the little dots seems to be scattered chaotically, but once I analysed it, I realised that they are all arranged in a pattern and sequence. The pattern creates a slight sense of vibration and to me it implies a sense of tranquility, perhaps due to a soft, round shapes of the dots. 

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Reginald H. Neal

I find this work the essence of the optical illusions. It has the highest colour contrast, a sense of pattern and repetition as well as a clean-cut prestige geometry within it. The overall visual impact strikes the viewer immediately by confusing and troubling their vision. 

Because of the repetition of lines and interplay of different patterns, the optical illusion suggests that the image is moving, which is untrue, and this is the most exciting part of the work: to confuse a viewer. 

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Josef Albers 
Study for Homage to the Square, 1961 
Oil on mansonite (24) 

The study of 4 squares offers 4 different colour temperatures and colour intensities. Placed in an oder of scale the squares create a sense of pulsation and vibration. I enjoy that the work challenges one's sight and a viewer becomes unsure whether the work leads the sight inwards or outwards. It is impressive as well that using 4 squares only the artist created such a strong sense of depth and dimension. 

I incorporated this approach before as a textile print but want to explore this further on. 

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