Marie Thompson

Behind Our Masks 

“How are you?” A common question we get asked daily, but do we always answer truthfully? My artwork represents the hidden emotions, dark secrets and things we tend to hold back to mask our true feelings, answering “I’m fine” with a smile. It is a series of six portrait photographs and a portrait painting including half a clay mask placed onto the canvas that also features abstract expressionism in the background. 

The inspiration for my idea came from the people that I am surrounded by.  I saw them without their masks and watched them placing their masks on, unknowingly hiding their expressions.  Edvard Munch stated ‘I do not paint what I see but what I saw’ (Munch cited in Gotthardt, 2018). This is what I intended to achieve and let the mask wearer know it is acceptable to put their mask down, to express how you truly feel and to never judge anyone. Gillian Wearing also inspired me with her 1990s series of people holding up signs and Van Gogh for using mental illness in his work.   

My work interlinks two mediums: photography and fine art. The link between my specialisms is the masks which I created using air drying clay, I used a mannequin head to help guide me with the features. For the portrait painting I used acrylic paint and to mount the clay onto the canvas I used Super Glue and paper maché. For the photographs I had six models, including myself, hold up one of three half masks close to their faces. The masks portrayed happy, sad and cracked but happy faces.  

The photographs were taken close to the model to make them more personal and the simple background ensures the subject is what the viewer concentrates on. The images were converted to black and white again removing distracting colours from the subjects.