Last winter I had the pleasure of participating in a symposium at The Canadian War Museum. The basic premise was to look at the first 10 years of Canada's current war art program, CFAP.
You can watch me talk my talk here.
After the fact, a blogger out of Ottawa wrote a post about the event which included a brief mention of one of my self-portraits, "Deer in the Headlights". I'll do my best to be diplomatic here, but when I showed the image I made the point of talking about the gap between intention and perception in portraiture; about the (in)ability to transmit something relatively consistent between artist, painting and viewer. Further to that, I had talked about how great it was to be back with the infantry (I was with 2RCR while they trained to deploy to Afghanistan), and so the bug-eyed look of the painting was intended to be a little comedic and melo-dramatic.
The blogger made the point in her writing that I looked scared and was clearly awkward in the back of the LAV, where the photo was taken. On the one hand, I thought, "man, didn't she hear a thing I said?", but more to the point, it reaffirmed the specific trajectory of my talk, that of the subjective and contradictory nature of viewing military themed art. Of the loaded nature of banal imagery and the inability of intense scenes to fully translate the emotions at play.
So, as was mentioned previously, it is of great interest to me how I relate to the soldiers who are gracious enough to let me eat with, drive around with and generally impose upon. In the painted study of Cpl. Fath (below), is there any sense of that awkwardness? Of me asking if I could take a few heads shots while we bounced around in the box am; of the almost instantaneous shift in his tenor after he agreed; of my need to further formalize the stagedness by using a flash so as to compensate for the rattle and clang that required a fast shutter speed?
Does Fath look stiff and ill-at-ease? Can you tell he's fake-talking for the camera? Or maybe because of all we know and are taught, the image is imbued with the assumption of authenticity.