Exploration of age and the preservation of youth 

For my final module in 3D art, I decided to study appearance and how we often desire to change it to how we looked at an earlier time. This concept reminded me of masks and how they are used to conceal one’s true identity. I therefore made a series of clay masks based on pictures of my family and friends at different points in their life. The following is an extract from my art journal: 

Once the masks were fired and glazed, they had a much nicer finish. They reminded me of ancient artifacts, especially due to their cracked and broken state. As I suspected, the smooth, pristine texture of the masks contrasts nicely with the wrinkled and aged skin of the models. However the shiny glossy surface is not at all similar to the texture of skin, making them seem unrealistic. I therefore prefer the more organic finish of the unglazed red terracotta clay.

After using a transparent glaze on a few of my pieces, I began to wonder about using coloured glazes instead. Before experimenting, I decided to carry out research into an artist which uses colour in 3D portraits. I then discovered Marc Sijan whom creates hyper-realistic sculptures which he describes as “homages to humanity’s fascination with its own forms”. Critics believe that his sculptures are so lifelike that they are on the verge of movement. I was initially drawn to the artist’s’ use of colour; particularly in how he suggests that the subject is wearing makeup through the use of bright red on the lips and nails. Not only do i like the aesthetic of this, but also what it connotes. I feel that wearing makeup shows one’s desire to appear youthful and attractive. However, this is not always the result.
Sijan’s use of costume and posture portray which point the sitter is at in their cycle of life equally as much as their facial expression and wrinkles do in my opinion. I feel that this concept would be highly beneficial and easily applicable to my project. Portraying his pieces wearing a swimming costume or police officer uniform gives context to Sijan’s work. I therefore feel that, for example, my mother wearing her wedding dress as well as a mask would be highly effective. As I looked at photographs of my parents on their wedding day, I thought it would be fitting to photograph them at their current age whilst wearing their wedding clothes in order to evaluate their progression through the cycle of life.

I, as well as my mother, thought that the series of photographs was very unsettling yet effective in evoking my intended emotions for my audience. Not being able to zip the back of the wedding dress, I feel that my mother realised how much her body, as well as she, has changed over the 24 years that a passed since the day that she married my father. This feeling is what I predicted to evoke: a realisation as well as the desire to reverse time. Although my mother is beautiful, I cannot help but feel she looks uncomfortable in the dress, as the time that it was intended for is in the past. Thus, she no longer belongs in it.

The creepy and disturbing atmosphere was amplified with the addition of the broken masks. The dark hollow eyes remind the viewer that the piece is just a mask which I felt was similar to the work of Gillian wearing. The broken edges and dark hollow eyes which contrast with the expression on the mask which my mother is wearing conveys an ominous, macabre atmosphere which compliments the old and outdated wedding dress. It felt as though my mother was embodying the photographs of her found in my grandfather’s family albums which was both nostalgic and unsettling. A similar effect was created in the series of photographs that I took of my father whilst he was wearing his wedding tie. It appears as though he was frozen in time at an age where he was at the pinnacle of his youth. The cracks in the masks suggest how time can decay, how ageing is inevitable and cannot be reversed which is portrayed in both the mask and also the ageing of my father.  My dad seemed very nostalgic when showing him the mask which is what I wished to evoke. He also touched upon how unsettling the empty eye holes seemed stating that they truly are the “windows to the soul”.

I like how the aged, wrinkled skin of my grandfather contrasts the smoothness of the mask which depicts him at a much younger age, when he was at the pinnacle of his youth and beauty.  I thought it would be interesting to compare the appearance of my family members at different generations, it almost acts as a prediction of what the young will look like when they age which can be seen in the photograph of my 20  year old brother, Sam wearing the mask which depicts my grandfather.  Although I feel that the masks seem closer to the texture of skin when they are not glazed, I feel that the shiny finish portrays how people wish to capture and immortalize their beauty.

In response to my research on the artist Marc Sijan which gave me much inspiration, I decided to experiment with the use of colour on some of the masks. I used bright and vivid colours to suggest that the subject matter was wearing makeup and felt that this conveyed a desire to appear young and beautiful. I am not particularly fond of the mask which I entirely covered in a coloured glaze as it makes the piece seem very unrealistic. I prefer the matte, rough texture of the terracotta clay as it is highly similar to the texture of skin. I was keen to see the outcome of my grandmother wearing these masks in order to convey how the elderly wish to go back to their youth, when they appeared more beautiful.

In conclusion, I am very pleased with the outcome of this project, particularly because the final concept was thought of as a result of an accident. I feel that I have successfully explored issues of ageing as well as paying homage to my family and their progression through the cycle of life. My family members are also impressed with my work for this project and feel flattered that I used our personal life and precious memories to explore the cycle of life. They admit to feeling nostalgic and melancholic when looking through their old photographs as well as the pictures that I took of them wearing the masks that I created of themselves at younger ages. I therefore deem this project successful as my intended feelings were indeed evoked in my audience. I am eager to find out how others react to my work in the upcoming art exhibition and whether their reactions will differ from that of my family.

Finding My Religion

I’ve always considered myself as a radical atheist. Hating the idea of God and everything and anyone that was connected with it. I would always stay at home when my family went to the Christmas service at our village church. They’d be surrounded by people celebrating, uniting together as one to sing carols and stick candles in oranges and be happy. I’d always be unenthusiastic at Easter or Christmas while the people around me are happy. 

I’ve never really met anyone who was a serious church goer until I came to uni which is what I suppose sparked my interest initially. The idea was laughable to me, dedicating time to worship or whatever. But seeing how much happiness and sense of belonging it brought him made me question myself.

Enrolling in a module titled ‘The Meaning of Life’ did not at all help the existential crisis that awoke inside me. I began to question everything. Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? 

It was during a seminar on the subject that I realised a higher being existed. The First Cause argument is what persuaded me. There MUST have been something that transcends our understanding of space and time that caused our existence. And I believe that something to be what Christians call ‘God’. 

I am yet to decide on whether I identify as a Christian but I am attracted to many of their core beliefs. I hope that my newly discovered faith will give me comfort in my existential crisis of not knowing where I come from or who I am or what my purpose is.