Steve describes going out early one morning with Mick to shoot surrealist images. Less than sixty years earlier, Andre Breton had published his ‘Manifesto of Surrealism’ in 1924. Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ of 1899, artists were developing ways of drawing out images from their sub- and unconscious minds, blending them with their real, rational lives.
Mick caked his face white, blacking his eyes. He knew the film was monochrome and wanted his Mediterranean skin tone bleached out. What did he have in mind? A skull? A ghost? He brought along a second clay head with horns – possibly of Pan, half man, half goat, god of rustic music. Such figures later appeared whole in his sculpture as in Dali’s.
Using suburban furniture – a hedge, a fence – they experimented, Mick juxtapositioning his face and body against them. For this shot, his horned head is held above his torso, obscuring the ‘true identity’ of his visage.
Initially, I thought of this as a Green Man representation, a fertility deity found in the foliage. But the horns, which Steve revealed, suggest someone Pastoral such as Pan, an appropriate god given his musical pedigree and Mick’s natural affinity with wind instruments.
If they were aiming for surreal portraiture then it begs the question, what in their unconscious were they hoping to uncover? Mick later trained as a psychotherapist. What I love about this shot is how they shook up suburbia, behaving like art students, Mick experimenting with his body as a canvas, collaborating with studied originality as in everything they ever did.
Mick could be Breton here. You’d never know.
‘All my life, my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name.’ (Breton)
‘The feeling that something else, something unseen is doing the creating, while the artist is being used merely as a tool.’ (Karn)
This image is available to buy here: http://www.stevejansen.com/imageshop/1108_karn_near_london_home_in_south_kensington_2.html