By Fiona Campbell/Quinte Arts Council
We live in the age of the selfie.
In 2016 Google reported users uploaded 24 billion selfies —that’s just Google Photos, and doesn’t include photos shared on Facebook, Flickr or Instagram. In her book I Selfie Therefore I Am, psychoanalyst Elsa Godart estimates young adults will take a mind boggling 25,700 selfies in their lifetime. The “selfie” has become so much a part of our culture Oxford Dictionaries named it as the 2013 Word of the Year.
But long before the age of the front-facing phone camera, there was the self-portrait. Portrait of a Man in a Turban by Jan van Eyck is perhaps the oldest and first self-portrait; an oil painting dating back to 1433. Scholars suggest van Eyck created the self-portrait as a display of his artistic skills, as well as his social status. Since then, artists have explored representations of themselves through paint, pen and pencil, photograph, and sculpture. Consider the work of Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gough, Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol – just a few of the most prolific artists who experimented with and mastered the art of self-portraiture.
Artists turn to self-portraiture for a number of reasons. Van Gogh wrote to his sister that “I am looking for a deeper likeness than that obtained by a photographer.” Others cite the convenience of having oneself as a model, or the opportunity to experiment with new techniques or mediums. Regardless of the motivation, there is always a curiosity to how artists choose to represent themselves and create their own personal mythologies.
November 1 is International Self-Portrait Day and the Quinte Arts Council is celebrating with a new Self-Portrait Show – an idea proposed by QAC member and local artist Marc Poulin.
“I suggested this theme not because it is my forte, but for the exact opposite. I am mainly an abstract/landscape artist, but wanted to challenge myself to do portraiture,” says Poulin. “I find self-portraits are a good way of expressing inner thoughts and feelings, or perhaps a dark side that might not be apparent to the world. A self-portrait really allows one to show their flaws and bad sides, without the risk of offending anyone other than themselves.”
Poulin adds: “I really enjoyed trying various styles as well, and found that different styles can help convey different aspects.”
The Self-Portrait Show runs at the QAC Gallery from November 1 to November 21. The QAC is still accepting submissions from established, new and emerging artists in all mediums, including painting, drawing, mixed media, sculpture and fibre. Art drop off is at the Gallery on October 24 and 25. Stay tuned for information about an opening reception.