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Rit of Passage

Annabelle Headlam

MY WORKS FOCUS ON BEAUTY, BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE TRADITIONAL SENSE OF DECORATIVE AESTHETIC, WHICH SOMETIMES IGNORES THE INTERNAL PROCESS OF OBSERVING FORMS AND SHAPES. I´D LIKE TO BE ABLETO CONVEY THE BEAUTY IN EVERYDAY OCCURRENCES.’

Annabelle Headlam has always been interested in the philosophical principles of the Far East and the interest is reflected in her work, both as a painter and Tattooer. Since tattoos and sumi-e cannot be modified once completed, both formal and informal approaches in her creations rely heavily on the visual foundations of Asia. In tattooing, every decision is left in the seemingly permanent mark when the epidermis is punctured. But with time, layers of skin can nibble away at the pigment and the aging body rebels against the image of what once seemed absolute. Or as Annabelle puts it, ‘Skin is a fickle medium.’

Skin is a fickle medium.

Even though many of her clients come to her with a design in mind, tattooing does retain a ritual element for her, similar to that found in rites of passage undergone in tribes as they enter a new phase in their lives. The artist can serve as a medium, visualising the true meaning behind the tattoos worn by her clients.

Anouk II. Charcoal on board.
Marisa. Oil on canvas.
Drone. Oil, Gold- and Silverleaf on board.

Her search for self-expression, which must often be put aside when tattooing, led Annabelle to painting. ‘Painting allows me to express myself as I see the world without outside input. Tattooing does not always allow for that.’ At first, it was small amounts of time which offered respite from the stresses of her profession, but soon evolved a dynamic and rhythm of its own. After a short phase of abstract painting, she found her vocation in portraiture. She is drawn to the concept of the idealised self and subjects of study have included enduring Hollywood stars from the period of the Great Wars who still shimmer in silver and shadow in ways people still attempt to recreate. The phenomenon of Instagram selfies has proved inspiring. ‘Selfies fascinate me because they express how people see themselves, or rather how they´d like to be seen; and sometimes you catch an unexpected glimpse of who they really are without them knowing.’ This spark, which flutters inside the subject and nearly jumps out from her portraits onto her viewers, is what Annabelle calls resonance. ´Resonance implies that the meaning of these pictures resonates, as it were, with my own impressions. It´s as though you´ve found common ground with a complete stranger. It makes the world smaller and proves how, ultimately, we´re all part of a whole.´

To sharpen the focus on the transcendental aspect of this phenomenon, the faces of the selfie portraits reside in a circle at the centre of the picture. This creates a visually clear border which narrows down the context and attention of the viewers. Individual physical traits are developed using a style akin to photographic depiction, while the rest is consciously sketched and smudged. A background is barely recognisable and references from the outside world are absent. The gaze of the subjects is striking and youthful. The simultaneous loss and realisation of self in an attempt to capture how they would like to be seen is what Annabelle hopes to depict. ‘I need art to transpire calmness. I am not interested in painting the literal state of the world. I don´t see art as a substitute for the news.’ What a beautiful closing statement for a time which is oversaturated with stimuli!

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Was born in 1973 in Zell am See. He studied philosophy and psychology in Rome and New York respectively. Living in his hometown since 2004, he runs the Boutique Hotel Steinerwirt with his wife Gunda, which functions additionally as a Contemporary Art Gallery and as a venue for readings and concerts.

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