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Self-Portrait Gallery

Self-Portrait Gallery: Visions of Formaldehyde

What is our identity at the digital age? Does it have any common feature with parietal art? These four self-portraits are all based on my own fingerprints and reflect on four dramatic life episodes. They connect the digital world and a deep human drive to use hands and fingers as primitive signs of identity, pointers, and tracers. Etymologically digital refers to the finger and has recently drifted towards numbers and electronic data. To the point that contemporary identification procedures tend to associate numbers with identity, fingerprints with signatures, and virtual traces with self-representations.

Using digitized scans of fingerprints as canvas, and following the biological lines and curves to materialize the self-portraits, I have worked like a wood sculptor who obeys the curves and shapes of the wood in his carving. In the same vein as my live digital works where I used cellular automata patterns to guide my imaginary, I have relied on the graphic pulses of my fingerprints to develop four personality traits – related to four senses. The fifth sense is intentionally left as a blank page. Perhaps your own view on it or your own self-portrait might complete my orphan series?

By drawing fingers and hands, it is also a reflection on the art of drawing itself that is at stake. Because the hand has been the first primitive tool to make strokes on sand, earth, and stone, and because the hand is still today the most evolved and uncontroverted tool for creating visual art, should it be made on a computer. Built through hand drawing on a digital version of fingerprints, each piece pursues our ancestral tendencies to draw on our natural environment, should it be the virtual digitized world. By turning my own finger traces into tormented human figures, I revive the old shamanic traditions of connecting pieces of oneself with exogene parts to rebuild a transcendent body.

The self-portrait gallery is a quest for my deep and ambivalent identities. Perceptions through senses always return to the infant’s primitive sensations of touch… so deep that we cannot conceive any memory of its origin. The other senses, taken separately, evoke both extreme strong memories, and affective pulses… that my hand has transmuted into visual traces grounded on my fingerprint identity.


Cover Page, 20cm x 30cm, Print, Pen and India ink on paper
Hearing of Silence, 20cm x 30cm, Print, Pen and India ink on paper
Vision of Formaldehyde, 20cm x 30cm, Print, Pen and India ink on paper
Touch of Life, 20cm x 30cm, Print, Pen and India ink on paper
Taste of Bleach, 20cm x 30cm, Print, Pen and India ink on paper
Smell of Breath, 20cm x 30cm, Print, Pen and India ink on paper
(c) Yukao Nagemi, all rights reserved, 2013