The Celebrity portrait influenced by the power of mass media.

My dissertation for BA (Hons) Fine Art (Integrated Media) is titled “The Celebrity Portrait influenced by the power of mass media”. It documents the history of the portrait from the earliest cave paintings right through to the present day. I wanted to find out the significance of the celebrity and the portrait in current society and then use this to develop my own artwork.

To develop a body of work surrounding this idea I started by collecting images of four or five well-known celebrities and printed them to start with in monochrome. I cut them into horizontal strips and tried rearranging them to make up some new faces.

Monochrome celebrity collage strips

Monochrome celebrity collage strips x2

Colour celebrity collage strips

After researching alternatives to using strips I decided to produce a slide puzzle type effect to try and further rearrange facial features. The idea to use a slide puzzle came to me after looking at 1980s imagery which I feel most of my celebrity icons are from and specifically the Rubics Cube.

Slide puzzle based image

Following this I choose photographic images of various celebrities that I admired or thought relevant that I have know from my lifetime. They were all front on facial portrait images to print out and mount onto foam board. Then I cut all the images into squares by using a nine square grid and used them to make collages of new faces.

Colour celebrity collage

I found inspiration from Pop Artist Andy Warhol’s work. Because of his infatuation with fame and pop culture, he obtained a black-and-white publicity photo of Marilyn Monroe, and used the photo to create numerous series of pictures. I was interested in recreating Andy Warhol’s use of bright colours in my own work that he used with these repeat images. I used some coloured design pens to boldly fill the squares with bright colours to enhance the overall effect of the collage.

Marilyn Monroe – Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol inspired George Michael collage

Andy Warhol inspired celebrity collages

Following this I chose some images surrounding memorable events in the 1980s. The Space shuttle disaster, introduction of the mobile phone, home computers, the aids virus, the fall of the Berlin wall etc. I placed them all together in equally sized squares to include with the celebrity images to create a larger more random collage.

Selection of images for collage

Large collage

British pop artists, Peter Blake is considered to be a prominent figure in the pop art movement. Central to his paintings are his interest in images from popular culture which have infused his collages. I was drawn to his collage work and after further research I found he had designed some interesting camouflage patterns that were used for his commission for Liverpool Biennial.

Sources of Pop Art III, IV, V, VI – Sir Peter Blake

WW1 Centenary Art Commissions and Tate Liverpool commissioned Sir Peter Blake, to dazzle a Mersey Ferry. Sir Peter’s design entitled Everybody Razzle Dazzle, 2015 covers the Mersey Ferry Snowdrop with a distinctive pattern in monochrome and colour, transforming the vessel into a moving artwork as it continues its service.

Unlike other forms of camouflage, dazzle camouflage works not by concealing but by baffling the eye, making it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed and direction. Realised in monochrome and colour, each ship’s dazzle pattern was unique in order to avoid making classes of ships instantly recognisable to enemy U-boats and aircraft.

 Razzle Dazzle pattern

Everybody Razzle Dazzle – Sir Peter Blake

I kept the off cuts from my previous work that reminded me of Sir Peter Blake’s Razzle Dazzle commission. I then used the pieces to make my own random abstract collages. 

Sir Peter Blake inspired camouflage collage 1

Sir Peter Blake inspired camouflage collage 2

I decided to bring my research back to the subject of portraits because I was interested in drawing and painting for my final project. I became interested in the work of Marlene Dumas. She stated that the human face is simultaneously and viewed, but mostly the latter: even our own faces are only accessible for us when seen from the outside, mirrored by some external object. The face is the most important part of the human being from the metaphysical, ethical, semiotic and artistic points of view: the face has the power to create whole universes. The portrait is one of the most influential genres of fine art: traditionally its aim is to represent the human face, to depict a person’s appearance and personality.

Untitled – Marlene Dumas

After researching some of her work I decided to make some ink drawings in a similar style using my chosen celebrities. These celebrities were drawn from the collages that I made earlier and contained several features of each different person. I discovered that I preferred the look of the images on the back of the pages that bled through.

One of my final paintings became a series of 5 portraits that were hung together in a horizonal frame. I used the collage of celebrities as my subject matter and overlayed some of the most popular Social Media logos. I decided to use these icons to promote the idea that all celebrities either living or dead exist in a virtual world that is available to us all. 

Finished painting. “Death Proof” – Roger Hesketh

I found Joan Wallace’s work interesting especially in Bobs Your Uncle. I decided to persue a similar style by making some small models that might be used for a larger scale finished piece.

Joan Wallace – Bobs Your Uncle 1991

Joan Wallace inspired work with Donald Trump/Space Shuttle

Joan Wallace inspired work with John Lennon/WW1

To try and finalise my research for the final project I decided that the thing most common in any celebrity of today is the connection with social media. I went on to make some collages using the most popular social media icons. I mixed these logos with my chosen celebrities and put together a mock up for my final painting.

Facebook Social Media

Instagram Social Media

Collage with Social Media

Collage for painting

Finished painting. “Like” – Roger Hesketh

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