Sam Taylor Wood

In The Self Portrait Suspended (2004) series, Taylor-Wood represents her freedom of moving into a new studio, and literally represents the liberation she feels with the new venture into producing new work. The artist suspends herself in mid air, carefully composed in the middle of her studio surroundings. The images portray a sense of freedom and a literal notion of being uplifted, almost like she’s floating in a dream.


In the later series, Taylor- Wood adapts images with a similar theme to the suspended series. In Escape Artist (2008) The light airy room is replaced by a dark shadowy space with Taylor-Wood suspended by brightly coloured balloons. The balloons seem to be dragging her up in contrast to the first suspended works where she is elevated and floating. Her body is slumped with her face covered by her messy hair, possibly a metaphor to the struggles faces in her life, coming out of the dark, but being dragged up/ or needing help and assistance from another force she cannot control, lifting her off the ground.


Taylor- Wood does a great job at representing her inner thoughts and feelings in her self portraits. In my images I want to play around with positioning the body to represent feelings of despair related to inner struggles and suffering like Taylor-Wood’s work relates to her battling breast cancer. I am thinking of ways I can represent my themes, manipulating the orientation of the body.

The battle with the Reflection


The next image was inspired by the self doubt and self loathing one has when they look in the mirror. Another of the symptoms of DID is eating disorders. Often when a sufferer of an eating disorder looks in the mirror, their reflection presents itself as a completely different form, they may appear bigger than they really are, with their reflection disagreeing with them.

Another symptom of DID is psychotic like symptoms including auditory and visual hallucinations. The sufferer’s reflection reaches out to grab the viewer as a surreal visual hallucination. The idea loosely based on an inner demon taking it’s form in the mirror, following the self in every reflective surface. I decided to show this in an everyday mundane setting to illustrate that a trigger point could be anywhere, and even the most mundane everyday tasks can be a struggle.

I took inspiration for this image from the surrealist paintings and photography I have been studying in my research. I decided to increase the use of colours inspired by the surrealist painter Salvador Dali, his images contain vivid amounts of colour, making the images more dream-like as if recreating a scene from a fantasy world. Throughout the project, a lot of my images have been edited the same way and are a little desaturated and dark. With this image being a bit lighter and brighter, I do like this a bit more than the dark images. I am realising now my images can have a dark idea behind them without editing them to make the colours desaturated and dark.

The Reflection

Under Control


The ideas behind the next image was inspired by the self being under control by the alter ego.

string face

I constructed this image with the alter ego to be in control of the self. The red coloured string implies danger and red being a colour associated with panic. The self’s face is trapped in a web spun by the alter ego, like a spider catching it’s prey.

I overall don’t think this image turned out successfully. I am not happy with the lighting, the clothing or the facial expressions. It’s one of my weaker ideas and images, but I am glad I gave it a go, and I will be thinking of more ideas for future shoots.

Looking into Pop Art


Like most styles of art pop art was a reaction against the conformity in society.  Pop art was influenced by the surrealists and falls under the same spectrum.

As according to the visual arts cork, In some ways, the emergence of Pop-art (and its ascendancy over Abstract Expressionism) was similar to the rise of Dada and its broader based successor Surrealism (and their ascendancy over Cubism). Both the exceed schools (Abstract Expressionism and Cubism) involved highly intellectual styles with limited appeal to mainstream art lovers. True, Dada was essentially anti-art, but the years during which it flourished 1916-1922 were marked by great polarization and political strife, and as soon as things calmed down most Dadaists became Surrealists. In any event, as explained below under Aims and Philosophy, Pop-art shares many of the characteristics of Dada-Surrealism and is indebted to it for several techniques derived from Kurt Schwitters’ collages, the “readymades” of Marcel Duchamp, the iconic imagery of Rene Magritte and the brash creations of Salvador Dali (eg. Mae West Lips Sofa; Lobster Telephone).

And if Surrealism was essentially internalist, and escapist in nature, while Pop-art was defined by external consumerist forces, both were consumed by the need to make a strong visual impact on the general public.

Claes Oldenburg was the Pop Artist who frequently used sculpture more than any of his contemporaries. At the start of 1960’s he was involved in various ‘Happenings’: spontaneous, improvised, artistic events where the experience of the participants was more important than an end product – a kind of consumer art encounter for a consumer culture.

He is known for his work with everyday objects, taking the ordinary and transforming them to the extraordinary, scaling these objects up to enormous sizing. Transforming these banal objects, delving beneath the surface in search of what he called ‘parallel realities.’ I assimilate myself within the works of Oldenburg, his passion for creating a new world for everyday objects inspires me and my production of surreal imagery.

“I like to take a subject and deprive it of its function completely.” By undermining the form, scale and function of an object Oldenburg contradicts its meaning and forces the spectator to reassess its presence.


In this image Oldenberg makes the impossible possible. He creates scenes seen in surrealist paintings, plunging them into reality. Nothing seems to be real in this image, but there has been no photo manipulation and trickery, just clever placing of common objects in uncommon places at ridiculously unbelievable scales.



The idea behind my next image came from how sufferers of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) have a tendency towards self persecution, self sabotage and violence (whether self inflicted or outwardly projected).

As according to Phsyclology Behavior is said to be ‘self-sabotaging’, when it stands in the way of our goals, interfering with our lives. Common forms of self sabotage are; procrastination, over eating, alcohol/drug abuse and physical bodily self harm.

Sufferers of DID may find themselves doing things they normally wouldn’t, for example; speeding, reckless driving or stealing from a friend, as if they are being compelled to do it. They truly believe they have no choice, like they are a passenger in their own body with another force driving.

The image is loosely based on the self sabotage we all experience at times along with sufferers of DID no matter how great or small. Whether it be comforting ourselves with food/overeating or excessive drinking to take our mind off our problems or cutting ourselves.

The subject is duplicated in the image, another representation of the alter ego. The girl is walking along your average street telephone wires, the wire turned tightrope symbolising uncertainty and danger,  at any moment the girl can misjudge her step, loose balance and plummet to her death.

The girl on the ground is another version of the self, compelling the other to walk along the tightrope, whilst she just watches safely on the ground. The viewer may want to ask such questions as to why and for what reason is there to walk such a dangerous path?

I wanted to relate this image to how an outsider may view those who commit self sabotage. There may be no real reason or explanation that an outsider can see, but for the sufferer, it may makes complete sense at the time, or they may feel like they are being compelled to do it. We cannot understand what goes on inside the minds of others, or understand a sufferer of mental health as no individual is ever the same.

Self Sabotage


Psychology today



Surrealist Movement.


Surrealism originated in the late 1910s/ early 20s in Paris, France, beginning as a literary movement, seeking to release the subconscious thoughts of the imagination. The ideas began with with the publication of the Manifesto of Surrealism by the poet and critic André Breton, surrealism became an important political, intellectual movement internationally. The main founders of the idea were psychiatrist Andre Breton, poets Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard and Philippe Soupault, they were all inspired by the analysis of dreams grounded by the theories of Sigmund Freud. Their poetry drew out the private thoughts from the mind, usually restricted by reason and society at this time to produce a new form of illustrative imagery.

At first the surrealist poets were reluctant to collaborate with painters, they believed their long, laborious work couldn’t be a form of spontaneous expression. These thoughts were overcome, and  soon musicians, painter, poets and writers were all working together for the surrealist movement.

The collaborators hoped the surrealist work had the power to reveal the contradictions in society and spark a revolution. They believed in the power of the imagination and sought it from ordinary places and elements of everyday life.

By 1939 the main surrealists including Andre Breton, Max Ernst and Andre Mason were all based in the US. With the marriage of Max Ernst to the millionairess art collector Peggy Guggenheim and the contacts with Marcehel Duchamp, they proved very influential with the surrealist movement. Many styles of late modern and contemporary art came from surrealism; such as pop art, Assemblage, Installation, conceptual art and performance were all inspired by surrealism in one way or another.

There is no definite end of surrealism, as each critic and historian has their own take how the movement disbanded. Some say it was after the deaths of the key figures like Breton in 1966, or later Dali in 1989 marking the end of this organised movement. Surrealism as a style was and still is very popular in the art world.

Breton defines the movement of: “Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express – verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner – the actual functioning of thought.” Wanting the artists to access the subconscious mind, making art inspired by the unconscious realm.

The artists that particularly resonate with me being the work of Max Ernst, the trickery of the mind and elaborate surreal happenings in his images I love, making for very interesting imagery, inspiring more creative ideas derived from the ordinary.


Salvador Dahli also was a great name of the Surrealist movement, with his astonishing and unique style of painting and use of vivid colours.

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I find surrealism connects with me, whereas realism doesn’t. The fantastical illusions make my head spin wheras realism I find very one dimensional, many images only telling one story, images I see so often that don’t tend to inspire my imagination, or make me think about anything deeper than the aesthetics of the imagery. I want to strive to create something new and innovative, like each of the artists, Renee Margritte, Dali, Ernst all have their own distinct style with no two paintings being alike. Creating work from the fantasy, delving into my creative mind will push the boundaries in the project, trying something that is completely different form my usual work, I am finding myself and adopting my own style as the project progresses. Researching into the surrealist work has given me the spark to reach into my mind to conjure up extraordinary, bizarre scenes which will make the viewer think and immerse themselves int he imagery, pondering upon the themes and scenarios, just like I view the work these surrealist painters.



I am looking at surrealism for inspiration with my future portraits. At the moment my images are a little dream-like/nightmarish, I am creating surreal scenes within my portraiture, a bit like the surrealist movement that began in the 1920s with painters experimenting ways in which to unleash the subconscious imagination.

Looking at the work of the Belgian surrealist painter Rene Margritte.



I assimilate with the moddiness of this portrait, it’s unsure whether both the faces belong to the same person, or if they are different. At a first glance they look the same, but if you take a longer look, they have very small differences. I want my work to engage the viewer, tricking the mind, making them ponder upon each image


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I like how Margrittes work cleverly combines ordinary items, scenes and scenarios. I will be taking some inspiration from his work, of how he seamlessly combines the two elements to create great, thought provoking artwork.  the-victory-1939(1)

Another practitioner I love is Salvador Dali.

This is one of my favorite paintings, for how it tricks the mind. The best works are the ones which make you puzzled and stay with the work for a long time, this is a perfect example with this optical illusion in the ‘Old Couple or Musician’ painting, a great example of imagery of the Gestalt principle.


Dali’s paintings have a wonderful dream-like feel, I love his use of vivid colour, I can take inspiration from his work, as he creates surreal fantasy images, but they don’t have to be dark. I have been producing dark images, so I will try injecting colour into some of my images and see if it works.

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The next idea was inspired by another of the symptoms, being irrational fears or phobias.

I wanted to play around with a fear/phobia that would be very visually interesting.

A according to the online health directory the term “phobia” refers to a group of anxiety symptoms brought on by certain objects or situations.

A specific phobia, formerly called a simple phobia, is a lasting and unreasonable fear caused by the presence or thought of a specific object or situation that usually poses little or no actual danger. Exposure to the object or situation brings about an immediate reaction, causing the person to endure intense anxiety (nervousness) or to avoid the object or situation entirely. The distress associated with the phobia and/or the need to avoid the object or situation can significantly interfere with the person’s ability to function.

Adults with a specific phobia recognize that the fear is excessive or unreasonable, yet are unable to overcome it.

The fear of drowning was my starting point for the ideas behind making the image. I chose to locate this image in a domestic setting to hint of a trigger point for phobias; being in the most  ordinary of places, transforming the ordinary to the extraordinary. Inspired by the thought that anywhere the sufferer may go certain things will trigger the fear, making very simple tasks and experiences a struggle, the fear never being too far away.




For the next image I drew inspiration from another symptom of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) where the sufferer may experience insomnia or night terrors.

Research into the medical term Insomia.

As according to the webmd A-Z

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Feeling tired upon waking

I wanted to transport a bedroom to an outdoor place. Representing the fact that although it’s night time, in this individual’s head it’s daytime with there being no night, no sleeping, just always daytime. The lake represents the mind and it’s wanderings keeping the sufferer awake.

For the editing, I wanted to make the picture look like a film still, with the colouring cyan tones for the lowlights, and a tiny bit of reds to the highlights, and desaturated it slightly using the channel mixer adding contrast.