2008 Pavel Jerdanowitch Painting Contest Entries


Self portrait by Helena Suess

The piece is a freeform draft of one of a series of images allegedly used in the liner notes for an album by a band no one will ever hear of. Obviously the prime intent is to elicit a humored, if slightly disturbed reaction. In its actual creation, however, a deep sense of loathing guided my hand. The vapid, palsied figure poorly costumed in the caricaturized attire of monarchy offers a dual commentary, both in the historical sense of incestuous lineage among royals--a visual interpretation of corruption in power--as well as the more universal concept of the futility of fantasy and hope: a princess' gown does not a princess make, no matter how hard she might wish. I feel this reading is emphasized by the large volume of Western folklore surrounding princesses and what one might call "wishing magic", meaning the trope by which a figure, often of high standing but isolated (the "princess in the tower" or the "royal in exile"), is offered total gratification that ultimately ends in near- or total tragedy. For the first, we can look at "Rumpelstiltskin" as an example. For the latter, the ancient legend of Paris and Helen exposes the consequences of the "wish fulfilled", although in this case we take Paris as the princess, which is not much of a stretch. Finally, the weeping wound on the head adds a sense of stalled violence to the scene. Did the figure simply hurt herself through clumsiness, her awkward body betraying attempts at noble grace, and the blood simply fonts from a nasty but harmless scalp wound? Or was she hurt fatally? And if so, by whom? A family member fearing idiocy among the line, or an opponent, whether political or plebian? Or was it her own action, the end result of dim gleanings granting the poor figure limited insight into the utter despair of her position that nonetheless was sufficient to convince her of the only way out? And is it resignation in her final expression, or simple incomprehension? Clearly, we have caught her in a most vulnerable place, and her sad monstrosity cannot help but be apparent, and compelling.



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True art, or not?

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