22nd November- 6th December, 2020, Art on View, 18 View Street Bendigo
MUGSHOTS by Melanie Thoren is a series of lino prints which explore feminine identity. The works are simultaneously satirical and thought provoking, prompting the viewer to reflect on the individual identity of each lady as they stare candidly from their porcelain homes.
The social discourse surrounding these works is pertinent in COVID times, as traditionally tea has been served at social gatherings. Now the line of the teacup on each woman’s face is invocative of the facemasks that are now mandatory in Victoria and at the time these prints were created.
23rd April-2nd May 2021, Dudley House, 60 View Street Bendigo
The concept of self-portraiture is by no means a new idea. Artists have been engaging in self-studies for many millennia. More recently, ‘selfie’ culture has perpetuated the idea that self-portraits are a narcissistic activity, laced with vanity and a self-righteous pining for attention. My view of the self-portrait is that of constant and ever-changing exploration of the self. This concerns not only external aesthetics, which of course will change over time, and the motor skills needed by the artist to create work a certain way, but also their internal view of themselves and how they choose to respond to their place in the world. The impact that the artist has on any of their work cannot be avoided: I believe that there will always be ‘you’ in your work, no matter how objectively an artist tries to portray an idea or concept.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020, I set myself a challenge: to create self-portraits of all different kinds. Why? There was nothing to focus on in this period of time, nothing except for myself. As a person with anxiety this is an easy task as I often turn to internal thoughts, and this time around I tried to give a face to these thoughts. The portraits I created are all different, but at their heart they are all parts of me. I enjoy working with self-portraiture as there is no pressure to ‘impress’ a person with my view of them. I can be as brutally honest or strange as I desire. The ultimate hope is making connections to others through my depictions of myself.
My motivations for this collection also stem from my love of surrealism and feminism. Historically, women are the ones who are criticised for their work with self-portraiture as a narcissistic endeavour, and have been shamed for not appearing aesthetically gorgeous, which is why my work plays with ideas of identity and questions conventional beauty. Some of my favourite artists, including Frida Kahlo, Helene Schjerfbeck, Cindy Sherman and Hannah Wilke, were classically criticised for their depiction of themselves and feminine motifs, and today many viewers still consider their work to be a selfish introversion rather than a response to factors which deeply affected their lives.
I look forward to continuing with self-portraiture work over my lifetime. I can see how, over time, my techniques and ideas are constantly fluctuating and changing. It will be fascinating to see if I can create a Narcissus Herself: Part 2 exhibition in around 10 years’ time and see if my work remains relevant or becomes some foreign idea from a memory long passed.