Inside the Creative Mind: Eye, eye, nose, mouth

12 June 2013

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Artist Elaine Duigenan is working with young women at New Horizons Youth Centre. She has devised and is running a series of six workshops that explore connections with works in the current Wellcome Collection exhibition, Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan. She’ll be writing a blog each week to relay some of the ideas and outcomes in words and pictures; here’s the second.

Although it was one of the first hot days of the year, we had a good turnout for the second in our series of six workshops.

We started with a very simple task using M.K.’s ‘Lady with Rainbow-Coloured Hair’ as a reference. I asked the girls to draw a portrait of themselves on a piece of paper with line and colour. It was a challenge; admittedly, it is hard, but a surprising number of people are stuck in notions of “I can’t draw” or “I don’t know where to start!” I didn’t want the girls to be afraid of making some marks on a piece of paper. The art displayed in ‘Souzou’ is inspiring for the very reason that it is not afraid of being judged, it is untrammelled and thus so very special.

I encouraged the girls to start with even just one feature, such as an eye, and everyone managed to do something.

We then started to look through a big pile of women’s magazines for a portrait image that stood out (M.K. works with images from adverts and magazines). H said, “Isn’t it amazing how beautiful all of the women are?” and “Where are all the ‘normal’ people?” – again, interesting in the context and illustrative of how narrowly contrived women’s magazines can be.

The rest of the task made reference to a street artist called Bast (Brooklyn based) who makes wonderful layered works which, in part, we sought to emulate. As we cut up individual body parts to make additions to our collaged faces, it felt like we were busting the beauty myth. The work, which had started with one or two airbrushed faces, got increasingly interesting as new and odd parts were glued on. At one point I highlighted the work of artist Hideaki Yoshikawa, who ‘dissects and abstracts the features of the human face’ in his ceramic series Eye, eye, nose, mouth.

A final part of the exercise introduced a further layer by taking another image (and the brown paper instructions from old sewing patterns) and hole punching. When placed over the top, the image underneath is more or less visible. This layering of the seen/unseen pays homage to the ‘Souzou’ artists for their meticularity, detailed focii, self referencing and questioning of the media that surround them.

Find out more about Elaine’s work at