This body of work is a part of my final folio works in my Bachelor of Arts studies at University. The title is Submerge and Merge, and is referring to the path of healing, specifically to the process of recognizing our current state of mind and heart, and allowing a compassionate acceptance to take place, leading to absorption and state of trancendence.
I conveyed this idea by making a series of portraiture artworks, where I covered over the form with the dirt ( or flour) that the form was lying on, so addressed the concept of the dissolution process leading to trancendence, and to submerging and merging.
On retreat I held a small workshop where I introduced the element of flour as a powder on the floor and on and around the figure. The flour was sprinkled over the model as he lay down, so that his face and body were covered and the surrounding floor was covered also.
Preparing the model for the shots to be taken, I was directing his pose from above, and the others participants would assist by moving the fabric, or flour as needed.
At this workshop all the participants are intending on learning creatively and as we are seekers of wisdom and we were on a spiritual retreat, (all meditators,) the witnessing and voyeurism has an element of serenity, and compassion and connection to the model.
behind the scenes images of sprinkling the model with turmeric, and taking I phone pictures.
As the students participated with decorating the model with various substances such as tea, and turmeric, and eggs, the images became referential to blessing the subject. I found shooting this process from above with a wide angle lens conveyed elements of standing on the earth blessing the smaller beings, because of the warped and circular nature of the image from the wide angle lens.
I edited the images with an intention of creating a kind of spotlight on the figure. I also accentuated the clarity which brought out the grain and texture of the dirt under the flour.
Eggs here were used to provide elements as accents in the composition of the image, also symbolically it does lead to the nest symbol, with the figure in a foetal position, referring to themes of vulnerability and retreat.
The hand print is very referential to primitive mark making, referring to the earliest portraits recorded, simply stating "this is me" or "I was here"
Placing a small flower in the palm of the figure, is significant of Buddha sculptures, as this is often seen in statues where people place flowers, and coins, and food in the palms of a Buddha statue as offerings to the Buddhas but also symbolizing what the enlightened beings offer to others. I brought down the depth of field, (meaning there was a small point of focus) so the face in the background became slightly blurred. This helped to highlight the gesture of the palm offering.
In my next session I wanted to introduce a second figure to start exploring themes in relationships, and what interesting dynamics and stories arose from the different figures.
I was fortunate to have a lady offer to be my model, as this took me into stories I hadn’t planned to look into, here it evoked ideas of the mother and the adult son, the relationship of support and the offering of compassion and healing.
The light was so beautiful, it made a kind of glowing type of light, that bathed the figures. I darkened the backdrop to accentuate this light and the forms as well. The male figure who is posed behind is slightly ambiguous as to whether he is a positive force or potentially negative. For me he seems to be a helping force, but presented as a wrathful energy. Perhaps he symbolizes her suffering and how she relates to it.
In my next photoshoot, I decided to incorporate a subject that I work with in my daily life, with my professional portraiture sessions, and is a personal passion of mine to support and empower. That is the pregnant woman.
I specifically chose the pregnant form as this symbolises the aspect of the caring mother who selflessly cares for another, and will put another's needs before her own, and feels so connected and in love with another, that another's’ pain actually hurts her so much she has to act to alleviate it.
Im also interested in conveying the female form as beautiful, in all its curves and sensuality, as in the path of releasing pain and experiencing healing the individual can feel a fluid blissful movement of energy. I wanted to convey this sensuality and appreciation of loving feeling this freedom from suffering, and a love of self in all its aspects.
This pregnant female model, I covered in flour and wrapped her hair in tulle, mainly so I didn’t need to ruin her hair, but so that her hair was not a distraction. It was interesting how this hair wrap connected to ballet styling.
I posed the figure with feet crossed so the line from her hip down was a reference to older fertility statues. As she was covered in powder I feel these highlighted this reference, and connection to the earth element. Her form was like a clay sculpture.
I covered her face with flour, and moved and shaped the figure into one of hiding her facial features. I wanted to express the blissful side of healing.
Here I am conveying the aspect of being submerged in a meditative state and losing an ordinary sense of self, and the surroundings.
Also the female pregnant body and its curving lines are used in the compositional elements and rhythm of the work.
Taking my favourites from the series, I edited them again, using very dark lighting, so the flour was highlighted, showing the texture, and making a more moody and intimate series of images.
Adding layers of texture to the background accentuated the clay like quality of the figure. Also accentuating the light and shadows added to its intensity.
When talking of bliss and beauty these things are not devoid of darkness, there are deep layers of not knowing and groundlessness interwoven with blissful transcendence. The path of transcendence to me is a dance of dissolving and receiving; to healing and acceptance.
The theme of merging and submerging, is simply about how we accept our suffering state of mind and how we find healing and transcendence of suffering by this absorption.