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About self-portraits and icons

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

I have started a series of self-portraits, which is still in progress. I consider them as „icons“, or at least they are „iconesque“.

In the Christian tradition, an icon „presentificates“ the sacred, materializes it. The golden background or the halo is a very important part of the image because it transposes the painted figure into a non-natural space, which is that non-materializable, non-paintable, non-representable space where the sacred figures live in. Anna Moraova explains it in simple words: „ on a very personal level icon is for me ‘a window’ through which I look into another dimension“.

An icon’s golden background is symbolic, it conveys to the painted theme this „other dimension“, liberates the sacred persons from our material world. A very simple example of “icon background” in our every day life is portrait photography: the routine (unless we are doing some artistic photography) is to focus on the person and dematerialize the background, make it seem blurry and unrecognizable, in a way that the person we are portraying is sacralized, “immortalized”.

I personally like playing with the idea of aura and I use it for this recent series of self-portraits.
The „sacralization of oneself“ is integrated in a process of quest of identity.
The aura is not always „golden“. Here it is yellow:
Self-Portrait on a rainy Saturday night by Ina Mar
Self-Portrait on a rainy Saturday night by Ina Mar

Here the aura is complemented by kitchen tools:
Self-Portrait as the Perfect Housewife by Ina Mar
Self-Portrait as the Perfect Housewife by Ina Mar

Here the woman’s mirrored vision as a doll is the icon:
The painter's model in front of the mirror by Ina Mar
The painter’s model in front of the mirror by Ina Mar

Here the aura is black:
Self-Portrait as a pianist by Ina Mar
Self-Portrait as a pianist by Ina Mar

Here it is rather a reference to the iconic “golden background”. This is a portrait of me in time: From left to right: granny / me in the past / me in the present / me in the future. The background changes from light yellow (childhood), to yellow (youth), then to golden (older age) – the golden is of course the most elevated form of sacredness and symbolizes in my image maturity.

Self-portrait in time – Hommage à Jansem by Ina Mar

I have been very inspired and influenced by Vibeke Tandberg’s work, even though you will see absolutely no visual connexion to her images. I still cherish a lot one of her first series, „Posthumous (Aftermath)“ created in 1994, a series of photomanipulations where she appears as a missionary in Kenya, helping the poor, healing the injured, teaching poor children. The last part of her project is as series of fictive obituaries in newspapers, announcing the tragical death of great missionary Vibeke Tandberg. The sacralization of oneself, elevating oneself, becoming a martyr, representating ones own death and people mourning over your death is a theme which for me has to do with self-reassurance, self-seeking, seeking of ones identity – especially if you take a look at the rest of Vibeke’s artwork.

IKONesque, a RedBubble group about iconic images:

Etsy discount coupon

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

-10% on all my Etsy items
with the code ETSYAPRIL2011


New artwork: Routine Heartbreak

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Ina Mar, Routine Heartbreaks, 2010, Mixed Media

The girl offers her heart to the black jaguar.
The black jaguar replies: “Use that emotion for something useful – create some art!”
The girl has collected each one of her previously broken hearts in its own jar of formalin. Under the shelf where the jars are placed, the viewer can read the girl’s thoughts: “How many more heartbreaks on the shelf of my life? When will I ever learn?”

Colour palette: dark red, crimson, salmon, gold, yellow, black
Size of the original (digital file): 35.4 in x 27.6 in (90×70cm)
Technique: paper collage, photomanipulation and digital painting, using multiple textures from my own photo stock

Making of “Routine Heartbreak”

Here are some preliminary sketches of the artwork, as well as a short description of my procedure, for those who are interested to see how I create those effects.


Picture 1 of 6

  • A normal photo is taken after a particular pose. The background is not completely neutral, but I use some of the elements and shadings for the final image, instead of a supplementary texture. The panther is added later. Both figures are progressively improved.
  • Several elements are provisorily placed on the photo, namely the 8 jars of formalin containing the hearts (taken from a vintage drawing) as well as  textures from 6 Egon Schiele’s paintings and drawings (skin, dress, hair etc, see below in the chapter “Textures and Material”).
  • Textures and shades are added in the background to give the yellow tones and that Pompei wall effect. I later added a pink gradient behind the girl, to highlight the hair and body contours.
  • The girl’s dress is painted red. The Egon Schiele fragments are adjusted in a way to fit together: same skin tones everywhere, even though the skin comes from 3 different paintings; the passage from one fragment to another must be invisible. The hands have rather red tones, because they are holding the heart. I removed the Egon Schiele mouth and eyes, because they expressed arrogance rather than pain.
  • I made some slight changes to the jars of formalin and hearts so they don’t all seem alike (regularity is not always a virtue).
  • The outlines are improved, for example the neck part, the face. I added a black contour to the girl and a red contour to the panther. Later I put a red “halo” both to the panther and the girl.
  • The text of the girl is handwritten and scanned, then integrated into the image. The panther’s text is a collage of letters from an old note (I like that handwritting).
  • I improve / paint / highlight many details. I make slight changes to the textures, namely removing the dark parts from the face, hands and legs, so that the skin is clearer and brighter.
  • At the end, I made the girl’s left foot visible, so that a self-evident sexual interpretation of the encounter is excluded (the panther is not between her legs).

Textures and material of “Routine Heartbreak”

The black jaguar is a photo from my stock, taken in the Mexico City Zoo. The girl’s skin, hair and clothing are a mixture of fragments from 6 different Egon Schiele paintings and drawings I discovered during my latest travel to Vienna, complemented with some digitally painted parts:

  • The girl’s dress  was taken from the sheets in “Embrace” (1917), Österreichische Galerie, Vienna. The  texture of the girl’s hair was taken from the same painting.
  • Parts of the face were taken from Egon Schiele’s nude self-portrait (1911), Leopold Museum, Vienna
  • The girl’s neck and the upper part of her dress were taken from Schiele’s “Devotion” (1913), Leopold Museum, Vienna
  • The girl’s legs and arms were taken from Egon Schiele’s “Blind Mother” (1914), Leopold Museum, Vienna
  • The girl’s right hand was taken from Egon Schiele’s “Erwin von Graff” portrait (1910), private collection.
  • The girl’s left hand was taken from the baby in Egon Schiele’s “Dead Mother” (1910), Leopold Museum, Vienna.

Left to right, top to bottom: “Blind Mother”, “Devotion”, “Dead Mother”, “Erwin von Graff”, “Embrace”, “Nude Self-Portrait” by Egon Schiele

Happy 2010!

Friday, January 1st, 2010

I wish you all a happy and creative new year!

‘For the sake of a single poem’ by Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, December 28th, 2009

For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, but it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open windows and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.

Rainer Maria Rilke