Another interesting way of doing self-portraits (or portraits generally, for that matter) is to focus on the home space, the studio space or the work space. The idea is earth-shatteringly simple: the places we inhabit most of the time contain a part of our essence and act like mirrors that reflect the bigger question of True Identity. For example, there are two places excluding work that I inhabit and feel like they reflect back at me my own identity. These places are overflowing with the “you” : the home, including my main studio (or creative work space) and what I call the Retreat (and a 2nd less used studio hidden in the bush)
The Retreat is a hinterland block of forested acreage with an unusually designed abode that was built by a sculptor influenced by Spanish, Israeli and Moroccan architecture. It’s a place I one day hope to open up to young artists and writers to allow them a magical escape from the world we live in (and through), the world of the angry, lost, envious, egotistical, broken-hearted, shallow, unwell, cynical and misanthropic. This is the world we can all relate to and are actively part of. The world of depression, grief and loss, trauma and myriad forms of suffering. Ugliness too.
So as a form of portraiture and as a form of journal-keeping, you can consider certain spaces as self-reflecting. Within these spaces of architectural presence, some rooms correspond to the inner-most sense of self you can possess.
Spaces are not what the real estate agent tells you they are, or what the bank uses to estimate your net worth. These spaces are the fundamental environment of your journey through the world. It takes time to stop and see them properly though. Just as it takes time to stop and see your Self after a self-portrait or a portrait by another. The unifying element is the worthiness of stopping and seeing. And appreciating.
Sometimes I don’t get a chance to visit my bush studio for weeks on end as I live in the city. When I do get there, it’s an interesting experience to follow a path in the forest to enter a roomy studio with familiar and large paintings that seem to be made by someone else. (Generally I feel most “good” artists are the best at opening themselves to that creativity that surrounds us.) So the bush studio feels like a decaying and abandoned monument in a forest few people ever enter. This is how the place feels. Special to me at least. The meditation deck next to it adds to the atmosphere. Ghosts everywhere.
Having lived in the city all my life, and having experienced the archetypal cities of the world while travelling, I have found that my favourite creative space is one close to nature. I have even noticed how the work I do out of my city studio is different to that done in the Retreat House. My dream is to one day allow access to my Retreat House (under some kind of arrangement) to emerging artists. There is something in the peace and the sounds of nature especially as the sun sets or as the sun rises, that is great for the creative soul.
This is the treehouse studio, hidden in the hinterland far away from the city. There is a feeling of isolation that is positive and invigorating. At the same time, it can be a spooky late at night for city people like me. Like having a fire in the forest around which the early peoples danced, having a hexagonal, high-ceilinged studio on a ten acre block of forest is more like a place of worship rather than a utilitarian work space. This might sound strange but if you ask artists about their studios, you will get an intimate insight into their art.
Painting at night out in the bush studio, these paintings quickly took shape as energies and as atmospheres. The sound of the night, the cool night air, the insects of the night : all of these sensory elements combine to give you a feeling. That is the Night. The atmosphere of the Night. Energies that cannot be easily described.