The Art of Suffering

When I wrote the “pain should never be an excuse, but a tool for you to create with“, it came to my mind several other artists who certainly had that concept in mind. Who lived and went through it.

Somehow there’s a universal attention to visualizing suffering humans, as if they’re therapeutically for the sane and healthy people. The World Press Photo is great on that, bringing the best of war and social photographers as witnesses of human suffering, in the most raw and brutal way, often in B/W, which emphasizes the pain concept even more.
In a parallel universe, the teenager’s photography often shows they’re own call for attention with fainted moody colour photographs of them, nose or knee bleeding as self-portraits. Some others go even further, and using the “suffering for the sake of art” would cut and create suffering situations to photograph their own statement in a lack of a better concept.

But let’s focus now on the “pain should never be an excuse but a tool for you to create with”, from those who were really in physical pain and used it as a scream to the world.

Flowered Torso, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Flowered Torso, 2008, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Dance #10, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Dance #10, 2008, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

When a few years ago I had the motorbike accident on the highway and later on the eye’s deep surgery due to the cat’s allergy that made me wake up blind, I had to go through several months of therapy, which caused me some physical pain. I must say that the eye’s surgery in which the doctor cleaned them from inside out bringing them out was made without any anaesthesia once there was no time to loose, and this was the biggest physical pain I ever experimented. After all this, I went into coma, maybe as a deep need of resting.

At the time I was working on a series of large size paintings when I got a hernia in my spine due to the accident, and that was what made me stop painting and started (or going back in a more professional way) to photography. I was home and barely could move with pain.

As someone who always had the urge or need to create as life aim, I couldn’t be quiet and found my way of expressing in photography, which was great not only to keep me busy creating but also as a tremendous therapy for restoring my eye’s vision. So it was clear and I don’t even remember of thinking twice: I started expressing through photography using my own body, doing self-portraits, most of them I don’t even know how I could have the strength to pick up the camera, but that made me get the power I needed. I shot myself in several situations of body pain, from back to head.

1 Eye, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

1 Eye, 2009, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Roped Minds, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Roped Minds, 2009, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Smoking Hand, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Smoking Hand, 2009, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Back then I used flickr to show what I was doing, uploading in a regular base, in a dichotomy way: my verbal speech telling to my friends that I was feeling great, maybe cheating my own self as it was what I needed to hear, and for the other hand I was doing and posting my all pain in self portraits. They were “me screaming out loud”. Begging for the mercy of all mighty lords. I showed from my bright eyes to my back in pain, trying to take it the most creative and positive way. I know that no one could help me on that, and I’ve been always an atheist so without faith in miracles or god’s help. My only escape was creating and transforming the pain in art. Not for art sake but for pain sake instead.

But you know several other artists who went through severe pain situations and who had the only way out creating using their own pain to scream and express it the most honest way.
By the time I was in contact with Lauren Simonutti, whom I wrote about before in a small tribute I did on “Sketching Concepts“. Lauren went through a deeply painful process, adding her mental situation of bipolarity to a terrible traffic accident which made her go through years of recovering, to finally find her death in 2012. But she didn’t stop and created the most incredible artworks while going through such body and mind suffering. I do have a high admiration and respect for what she went through and left us.

The Devil's Alphabet B, by Lauren Simonutti

The Devil’s Alphabet B, by Lauren Simonutti

by Lauren Simonutti

by Lauren Simonutti

by Lauren Simonutti

by Lauren Simonutti

Curtain Call, by ©Lauren Simonutti

Curtain Call, by ©Lauren Simonutti

Another great artist who used the pain in a creative way leaving us a collection of photography, most self-portraits of her illness was Frida Kahlo who also died quite young. She suffered lifelong health problems. Many of her health problems were the result of a traffic accident she survived as a teenager. Recovering from her injuries isolated her from other people and this isolation influenced her works, many of which are self-portraits in painting and photography.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo in traction

Frida Kahlo in traction

Frida Kahlo painting body cast

Frida Kahlo painting body cast

Frida Kahlo's body cast painted

Frida Kahlo’s body cast painted

In painting there are several other artists who went through physical suffering, like Toulouse Lautrec as an example. Artists are no exception, we’re as humans as you are, with the same colour of blood. But maybe we have it easier to cheat or go around, as we have tools like creating to take the physical pain into a new level. And we’re not talking about mind suffering, like Bipolarity, Autism, Asperger or even Depression… let’s talk about that on a soon-to-be article.

Do you know any other art-photographers who used the physical pain as a tool to create?

And art-photographers who used their differentness like autism, bipolarity, etc to create?

text by ©Gonzalo Bénard for 2HeadS
Feb, 2013
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