Self Aesthetics: Towards a Contemporary Poetics of Portraiture

Anthony Curran

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    104 Downloads (Pure)


    Throughout modernity, portraiture sought to represent the unique essence of an
    individual. However ideas of self and identity have been subsequently
    dismantled by postmodern theory within sociology, psychology, feminist theory
    and post-colonial studies, leaving the concept of self to be considered as a nonessential product of biological, social and psychological fragments. This shift in philosophies of self, or what Martin and Barresi have referred to as the Fall of
    the Self, has led to a notion of self as unrepresentable and in constant flux.
    Such a conception of self is at odds with the mimetic traditions of fine art, which
    have for so long been the foundation of portraiture. However recent
    developments in late-modern and contemporary art have responded to the
    postmodern criticality and have attempted to move away from the
    representational toward experiential and participatory forms of art. As a result,
    the genre of portraiture has become isolated from the broader debates in
    contemporary art and aesthetics and from its core subject – individual selves.
    This thesis investigates contemporary aesthetic theories that have emerged since
    the fallen self and tests the legitimacy of these aesthetics against each other and
    through studio practice and exhibition at the local and national level. A tension
    is identified in which portrait institutions maintain a traditional and mimetic
    focus where as the broader artworld privileges dematerialized and participatory
    or event-oriented modes of art. By analysing the aesthetics of both, the world of
    contemporary art is shown to offer portraiture profound opportunities in
    engaging with new aesthetic and philosophical developments in self. In
    addition, a critique of contemporary aesthetics reveals that the practice of
    portraiture can engage directly with the issues of contemporary art by
    emphasizing the participatory and experiential aspects of the genre.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Overton, Neill, Principal Supervisor
    • Bowker, Sam, Co-Supervisor
    Award date12 Oct 2015
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    Dive into the research topics of 'Self Aesthetics: Towards a Contemporary Poetics of Portraiture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this