Monday, 11 February 2019

Nothing Matters..

File:_T7A1950 Nothing Matters George © Richard Ansett 2018
File:_T7A1842 Nothing Matters George © Richard Ansett 2018
The huge challenge of attempting to illustrate the complex and bespoke nature of mental health, especially through such a limited 2 dimensional medium, has led me to the realisation that perhaps photography in its purest sense is not enough and I am deluding myself if I consider that somehow I am 'making a difference'. Don McCullin (who does not define himself as an artist) admits that his images will make no difference to the subjects he has taken, many of whom were either already dead or would soon be. It does beggar the question 'what are we doing this for ?' and this is an intellectual anxiety at the fore front of the mind of the empathic artist. Conscience and responsibility are part of the self negotiation in the representation of other people.

Depression is hard enough to define in any medium and perhaps so much exposure to it has allowed it to infect my own confidence. Being around complex and overwhelming mental issues does take its toll for a sensitive and confluent person. I have been known to say that I do not care about my subjects but this is a conceptual statement only, their identity is less important than the message I am attempting to communicate through them. I am attempting to detach the conventional narrative that helps us to easily define and therefore compartmentalise the subject as 'other', so that we as an audience can potentially imagine this hell for ourselves.

For example, without wishing to pull back the Wizard's curtain too swiftly, this man's name is not George, it is in fact Edward; it doesn't matter, nothing matters. I find confidence to declare my process through the anecdotes of other artists and I recently read that David Hockney re-named the cat in his most famous painting 'Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy' because it sounded better. 'Nothing Matters Edward' doesn't have the same flow either.

I spent some time recently alone with George, he is so consumed with ennui and despair at the loss of his mother that he inspired an attempt to define it, or perhaps to attempt to capture something of it, bottle it or worse pseudo-scientifically observe if the molecules bouncing back from him and onto the cold hard plain of my image sensor convey anything of his suffering to you or even me. Can his emotional and physical pain that is so visceral in the moment be captured within the boundaries of the conventional photograph? My practice is defined by this challenge. I am not looking to redefine the craft but create new and original work within traditional boundaries.

Margaret Atwood accidentally came close to defining depression when she stated that "There is always hope. Otherwise why get up in the morning." Similarly, to believe that “if one thing matters” to quote Wolfgang Tillmans “everything matters” noble as it is, sentimentalises a starker reality, that the fabric of our existence is a fictitious human framework to help make sense of our insignificance. Depression is a consequence of this awakening from this delusion. Depression can be defined as progress as we awaken into a hopeless realisation.

As in the myth of Daedalus and Icarus to face this realisation is to risk destruction. Depression is a bespoke emotional and physical destruction, the pain of imprisonment of self through a failure to rationalise truth.

The awareness of the hopelessness of reality and our existence within it, is something we must negotiate but this awakening can come as a terrible shock to the unprepared. As an artist I deliberately place my hand in the flame. Mortal anxiety is a catalyst to this process and how we manage our relationship to it defines us as unique, complex individuals.

The paradox is that there is hope; the irony is that there is only one thing that can help us come to terms with 'the hell of existential loneliness, OTHER PEOPLE. We are both the problem and the solution.

SEE FULL SERIES HERE: Nothing Matters George, 2018