Artwork by Annamieke Engelbrecht
Annamieke Engelbrecht was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1995. Having grown up an introvert she was naturally drawn to activities that were, for the most part, separated from people. This included painting, photography, social media and other online platforms. The artist has always been fascinated by Internet personalities and how people portray themselves for others to see. This interest was cultivated during her teenage years and further developed when she opted to study towards her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts at Stellenbosch University. During Engelbrecht’s final years of studies, she delved more into her own discomfort in front of a camera by tapping into her introverted nature. She created a series of masked self portraits through the mediums of painting, photography and video, where these works were inspired by Internet personalities from various online platforms.
According to photographer Peter Hurley, there are four different behaviours that people adopt to cope with the experience of being photographed. There are people that simply own it when they are in front of a camera; they are grounded, confident and happy being visible. Some people pose and become something other than themselves. Others shrink and become smaller in their efforts to hide from the camera. The final group avoids the camera at all costs.
“I consider myself an avoider. I feel uneasy and freeze up when standing in front of a camera. This feeling of avoidance and discomfort creates the foundation for my self-portrait project. By trying to deal with this hyper-consciousness of the lens, I created a self-portrait series that masquerades my features in a way that is unrecognizable.”
This self-portrait series consists of painting and video that is moving parallel with each other. The oil paintings are self-portraits wherein the original photographs of Engelbrecht are altered.
The artist digitally changes the coding of her self-image to create the geometric shapes and colours. This is a way in which to modify a photograph in order to create an image in which she is comfortable with the appearance of herself in the end product. The digital photographs go through various stages of masking and transformation in order to get to the finished oil paintings. They can be seen as “mirror” paintings, but instead of reflecting the image of the viewer back to themselves, the painting reflects the distorted image of Engelbrecht back to the audience.
While taking photos, Engelbrecht realized that she gains much more confidence when an item is partially or completely covering her face, thereby feeling significantly more comfortable in front of a camera, because of the safety net that the clothing article creates. This insight became the foundation from which she created three characters that handle the difficulties of dealing with the camera. The characters are visually inspired by the painting series, as they are essentially going through another stage of disguise to hide the original image of the artist. Through these characters, Engelbrecht can freely move around in public and in front of a camera without any discomfort.