On Fionn Wilson's self portraits
Two things happened recently, which both made me think of Fionn Wilson's work. I went to see a J.M.W. Turner exhibition, and as I was looking at all those big, bright canvases it occurred to me that there was a kind of reverse relationship between these and Fionn Wilson's paintings. Whereas Turner's paintings all look like something dragged out from a clear and blinding light, Wilson's look like they were painted forth from a dark and mysterious mirror. The other thing was an interview with Frank Auerbach in The Guardian with Auerbach talking about John Constable. ”I am struck by” he said, ”that sense of how Constable has gone round and round and round the subject. […] Everything has been worked for and made personal so you sometimes feel that Constable’s own body is somehow inside the landscapes there.” This made me think of Fionn Wilson's self portraits.
If you're an artist, a real artist, painting is exploration. People seem to have a tendency to think that painters are out to express something (and then they become suspicious when the painters can't quite explain what it is). No. People working in advertising are out to express something, and politicians and people who want you to donate to their church. What a painter does is exploring and investigating his or her given reality in order to understand it, perhaps in order to come to terms with it or be reconciled with it, and he or she does this using paint and brushes. That is all. And by doing so, by going deep and ”round and round the subject”, the painter helps open up reality for the rest of us, and helps keeping it open. Referring to Max Beckman who once said that ”I hardly need to abstract things for each object is unreal enough already, so unreal that I can only make it real by means of painting”: painting like all art is reality maintenance.
No given reality is more obviously and unavoidably there than our own physical presence, our bodies and our faces. In some ways, it could be argued, the self portrait is (with a word Fionn Wilson would most probably dislike) the most pure figurative genre. Unless you're trying to simply make yourself look as handsome or attractive as possible, in which case you're not an artist, doing a self portrait is exactly what painting is all about, exploring and investigating what is there and with no other agendas. There is no 'point' to doing a self portrait except to go ”round” your most intimate and personal reality, trying to understand it. Essentially, there is no difference between painting a self portrait or a landscape, but with the self portrait you're closer to the heart of it all, where it all comes from.
Bo Gorzelak Pedersen,