Artist's Statement


As a physician involved in healing as well as treatment, I realize an important distinction: treatment is often violent, intrusive, challenging such as surgery or angioplasty, which I have been involved in for years. Healing on the other hand is often a real struggle involving the "patient" more, taking responsibility for their own problem, struggling with their own self and circumstances. No one has a premium or ownership on this...we are all part of the problem and solution at different stages of our lives. As a physician and an artist it was the personal struggle, the inner psychology of conflict I tried to portray.

One of my reference images was that of Signiorelli.  Through much study, I have drawn inspiration from his Frescoes in the Duomo in Orvieto.   Here is his Antichrist image, with Christ being embraced, and entreated by the Antichrist (there is only one left arm - that of the fused persona).  It is an image that has survived 500 years of criticism because it is compelling and authentic: no greater a goal can an artist have.

The Renaissance Antichrist

 

 

I then worked the image from multiple smaller then larger pieces to try and create a tension between the 3 figures: Emma, Jung and Pilgrim. 

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Emma became saint-like watching the struggle.

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And when transferred to oil, I wanted to keep this space between them active. This was a challenge and the more I worked this image the less I liked it as I could find no place to enter as a viewer, and the figures became stiff and emblematic rather than real.

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I continued to rework it without success, despite fortifying the image with theatrical portals referencing the Opera/Stage as well as the process of healing, passageways etc.

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I then decided that the “gaze” needed to be that of Emma, providing an entry for audience, enjoining the viewer to see the struggle through Emma's eyes, as seen in this white revision.

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I am familiar with the male gaze: there are many historical precedents for and examples of this. The female gaze was more difficult, and since so much of the opera is through Emma’s eyes, I thought it important.  How was Jung struggling with his self and what types of mark best portray it?  I started with scratchy, sketchy marks.

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The final image has Jung and Pilgrim with the mirrored faces and postures, derived from the Antichrist, and now altered to reverberate as the Ego/Alter ego, Ying/Yang, Body/Soul, call it what you will depending on your viewpoint. The struggle I thought was palpable in the strokes, the hard marks, the history of my own struggle embedded in the canvas, the raw expression of fear/terror/ struggle referencing the German Expressionists of the 1912 period.

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And Emma, in Red, with a gaze that meant to say, “Carl it is your struggle”: not disinterested but at a necessary distance, and permitting you and I as viewers to enter the world of the Dream Healer.

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I saw this from the beginning as an image of struggle: I wanted it to be so simple and compelling an image, that a child or an ordinary citizen that you showed this to on the street would understand it almost intuitively.  I believe myself to be naive: people bring to the image, like that of a Rorschach butterfly, their own world.  I cannot prevent that.  Semiotics teaches us that the sign has an independent life once made; as an artist I am prepared to wear that.  However I will say that I am not comfortable with any group giving official policy on a work of art.
Coming from a family of Holocaust survivors, I fear the official doctrines done in the name of protecting people for their own good.


I hope this goes a little way to explain what I tried to do. 


Respectfully
Ian Penn
Artist /Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of British Columbia


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