“There is nothing more uncanny than seeing one’s face accidentally in a mirror by moonlight”
Henrich Heine, ‘Die Harzreise’ , quoted in Otto Rank The Double: A Psychoanalytic Study (1914)
Sometimes in making, unexpectedness occurs. Chance or accident. I would like to begin with an account of unexpectedness in the making of a painting. While working towards a show of doppelganger paintings, a conceptual experiment where my method entailed a primary and secondary position, making one mark then deliberately repeating it as accurately as possible, I abandoned one such Doppelganger mid-way and when I returned to it I found I could not remember which was the primary and which was the secondary position. While working on the two paintings in tandem – mark for mark – I presumed I would just ‘know’ which was the original and which the copy when I returned to them.
Both paintings look similar but are not identical, the more you look for the similarties the more the differences are evident. Whilst I knew that they were different, I was having difficulty identifying the primary mark. The invitation I was making to the viewer was similar to this to consider the differences in the paintings by moving from one to the other. How could I suddenly arrive at a position where I felt momentarily disorientated, perplexed, mildly panicked? All the feelings that are associated with an uncanny experience. I quickly reorientated myself and “found” my original mark. Now in the midst of my research on this uncanny moment once again I am unexpectedly struck by the same feeling due to misrecognition or failure to recognise my own sequence of marks. On this occasion the paintings are produced by a different method. Rather than reproducing the paintings mark for mark I attempted to reproduce the finished painting as accurately as possible. To match brushwork, paint modelling, tone, colour and thickness of paint to the original. Again I removed the finished paintings to ulitise the space for other work and when I returned to them to place them in a sequence I found that strange feeling momentarily replicated.
Failure to recognise the sequence of marks leading to feelings associated with the uncanny that I hadn’t pre-empted, tried to construct or even considered.
Excerpt from – A Painter’s Progress
Posted by Alison Pilkington, PhD researcher Painting Dept., NCAD