Self-portrait is a tribute to oneself

Self-portrait is the description, almost a collage, of one’s own physical and moral qualities, of one’s own defects, of one’s own merits, both in pictorial and literary form.
But is it so simple to describe what a self-portrait is?

Describing one’s own physical form in a self-portrait is an enormous, almost impossible task in itself.
Because it is a portrait of oneself filtered by what the artist imagines of oneself, and it is not necessarily a portrait that describes the here and now, the immediate presence of the artist, but it can for example be a self-portrait based on a not recent photo.

Self-portrait has also had different meanings in history, for example in a historical period like the Renaissance, self-portrait determined the affirmation in the world of one’s own talent, while in the contemporary world there has been a greater search for introspection and dialogue with one’s own image often not perceived outside as inside oneself.

Self-portrait can be defined as a collage of psychology, painting technique, self-assertion, even self-motivating.

Painting yourself as the unique subject of the painting, inserting yourself in your own image in a context as a visitor, painting yourself as a saint, as a famous person, painting yourself inside paintings hanging in architectural backgrounds and so on: self-portrait is always an affirmation of yourself, whatever form you choose to use.
Dürer has painted himself countless times, as has Van Gogh or Ligabue, but also Kahlo, while Klimt has never had any interest in making a self-portrait.

My relationship with self-portrait

I belong to that category of artists who don’t like to retract oneself.
I use words for that, and in this specific case I don’t talk about me directly but I use poetry to communicate thoughts and moods.
From my point of view, I think I’m more interesting as a medium to get the message across. So my person only counts for that which produces and creates.

The psychological study of myself passes through the channels of expression and I don’t like to project who I am and what I do on a canvas as a self-portrait or by photographing myself.

The internal image I have of myself does not necessarily coincide with the external one.
Maybe because I am not able to make a synthesis between the inner and the outer self, always finding a deep gap between the image I see reflected in the mirror or in photography and what I perceive of myself inside.
There is almost an astonishment in confronting myself with the mirror, I almost never see the two parts adhere.
For this reason I never recognize myself in a self-portrait.

My self-portraits

I think I painted four or five self-portraits, some of them I also think I threw it away, because it bothered me, I didn’t recognize myself in it or maybe I recognized myself too much.
The surviving self-portraits, maybe they are simply a necessity to reinvent myself.
One of the first self-portraits were created with photography and filters. I wanted to accentuate certain traits in a dramatic way, trying almost desperately to recognize myself in an image that was not created by me but by the camera.

Self-portrait photography

Of course, the camera is not just a camera that impresses a shape through light.
The reflex camera photographs in one way, the mobile phone does other things with selfie.
The mechanism is the same but the contexts are different.

A selfie is immediate, instantly consumable, massively distributed through socials.

Self-portrait with the camera can be slower, more studied in different contexts, printed and framed, thought with a specific scenography. While selfie can be an operation of surface and spontaneity, a self-portrait can be extremely deep, conscious and leaves nothing to improvisation.

In my case I tried to combine the two circumstances in a hybrid that had the speed of selfie without any technical structure (a cell phone and a lamp next to it) and the intervention with color and filters to stop that moment in a self-portrait. Can we call this self-portrait a collage of techniques? maybe, I’m still studying the way to increase my skills.

The filmed self-portrait

In the last MoMA online course on Communication and Art with Randall Packer, that I attended, we were asked to self-portrait with the iPhone, no other tool.

The experience immediately became difficult for me, because of my historic desire to appear less and less in public.
Randall Packer immediately understood my need and suggested I open my mind, because there are infinite ways to tell yourself in a self-portrait.

As he told me himself: Not a problem at all. There are many ways to depict and portray the self: you can use objects, you can use your environment, you can use any other aspect of your life that reveals something about yourself.

Strange to say, I used as a starting concept, Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox, to define the anatomical parts of myself.
And Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox is a sort of self-portrait, capable of narrating the misfortunes of the artist’s life.

That painting and Dr. Tulp’s Anatomy Lesson, were the artistic inspiration from which I created the video for my self-portrait.
THIS is the result, and it speaks a lot about me, without highlighting my face.
Randall Packer liked the work and also the group that studied with me.

Self-portrait as a collage

A couple of years ago I was proposed to exhibit in Milan, Rome and Venice in a group show.
The proposal was interesting.
The theme was among the least preferred for what concerns me: self-portrait.
A collage to portray myself was certainly the way I immediately preferred.
But I did a more complex operation that I could summarize as follows:

  • Use of paper collage and recovered materials
  • the materials recovered were my father’s
  • self-healing self-portrait to overcome paternal grief
  • collage intended precisely as tesserae of various materials joined together
  • use of various mediums: acrylic, felt-tip pens
  • my face painted and collaged twice, to suggest human duality
  • union of image and written word
  • self-portrait was based on a poem

For this last point I enclosed a notebook attached to the painting together with a pencil with the written poem that inspired the self-portrait on the front page.
People had difficulty in appropriations the page perhaps because they thought that it somehow entered the painting.
Some people managed to get courage and started to write.


Self-portrait was supposed to be a collective operation.
Where even though I had my face printed and painted on canvas, I was an element of the whole operation.
Again, my favorite painting as a teenager, Dr. Tulp’s anatomy lesson.
The corpse was me, the viewers of the show the doctors around the corpse.
And like all studies, people should have learned something from this self-portrait.

Self-portrait as self-denial

So self-portrait can be an interesting form of communication with the public and finds meaning not only in self representation but also in communication with the viewer.
Am I the one in self-portrait? Yes and no.

It is my self-portrait, but it is also the story of the objects that my father loved, it is also my interpretation of relationship with my father, but I am also split, because I know I am not one person.

And then I invite the audience to enter into history, through a poem that is a representation of me in words and that in turn filters on another plane.
Can a self-portrait be defined as a collage of emotions? of stories? of self-presentations?

Self-portrait, collage of many selves

While in the past centuries all these planes were stratified within symbols and allegories often indecipherable and highly intellectual but on a reassuring surface made of common objects and perceived as such, today in the era of the whole and immediately the objects, shapes and concepts are united on the same plane that often seems to go beyond the surface.

Collage in self-portrait and self-portrait as a collage of feelings and forms, can be playful and apparently superficial operations.

Rarely are they, because an artist behind and within oneself has years of study and work that these are really a collage from which to take inspiration.

A phrase attributed to Picasso says: Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal.

Obviously doing something new, otherwise it is no longer a self-portrait but a meaningless collage that will represent someone else’s self-portrait and therefore, it will no longer be a self-portrait but a useless portrait without ideas.

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