The Disturbing Final Self Portraits of Bryan Charnley

The Disturbing Final Self Portraits of Bryan Charnley

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if you were to search for artwork by Brian Charlie or follows as a collection of unhinged and chaotic scenes a shocking and gripping insights into the world of mental disintegration Charlie's unmistakable use of extreme sometimes violent serialism is very recognizable in the world of outsider arts but the work that stands out for most people is his 17 final self-portraits alongside a diary a document a tragic story about his struggles living with schizophrenia
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right up until his final days before committing suicide in July 1991 in this video we're going to explore the mind of his troubled yet talented artist as well as the final self-portraits reflected a mind so desperately in decline Brian John Charlie was born on the 20th of September 1949 and stockton-on-tees with his twin brother he grew up in London she saw Hurston Kent Graham field where his father worked as a senior
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lecturer and finally in Branagh near Bedford the frailty of Charlie's mind was made evident at an early age in the summer of 1968 aged 18 he suffered a nervous breakdown but was able to study at Leicester school of art later that year he gained a place at the Central School of Arts and Design in Holborn 1969 but was unable to complete the course due to another breakdown later diagnosed as acute schizophrenia this uncontrollable mental condition would cling to him for
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the rest of his life from 1971 until 1977 he lived at home with his parents between periods of hospitalization and treatments including ECT in 1978 he moved to Bedford and began painting the first paintings were representational works including large flower paintings from 1982 onwards is where it began to addresses in a life such as dreams and mental states particularly in the nature of schizophrenia Charlie's work will begin to receive some recognition within
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the London art scene for at the 1980s however of a little recognition that he received was outweighed by the day-to-day problems of his illness and the heavy medication that he was prescribed to counter it another stem of his delicate mental health towards the end could be linked with this relationship to Pam Jones he featured in one of his most famous paintings called Pam and I in 1982 due to suffering mental illness herself she attempted to commit suicide in 1987 by jumping out of
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a window although she survived the fall caused serious damage to her spine the incident would deeply affect Charlie which was made apparent in his later painting called leaving by the window which served to replay the traumatic scene of the events the beginning of Bryan Charlie's final work and mental decline was marked by miss simple and formal self-portrait signed on the 11th of April 1991 in addition to this Charlie was encouraged by sane mental health charity executive Marjorie Wallace to
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keep a diary that would also help explain the imagery the entry that Charlie provided from his portrait is as follows conventional portrait painted in two sittings is it's a good likeness drug dosage was 2/3 milligram tablets of depicts sold daily plus 225 milligrams of trip to Seoul I was sleeping a lot as you can see the signs of a powerful unpredictable mental state has drastically evidence in this portrait compared to the first one in Charlie's
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diary he wrote the following entry the person upstairs was reading my mind and speaking back to me to keep me in a sort of ego crucifixion I felt this because I was discharging very strong vibrations which could easily be interpreted I try to express this in the painting a large rabbit ear is because I was confused and extremely sensitive to human voices like a wild animal the next portrait completed on the 23rd of April takes on a very uneasy and bewildering turn a portrait is done in a
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very primitive style virtually unrecognizable to Charlie's previous paintings displaying a characterless face with eyes and mouth crossed outs as well as what appears to be two days have also been crossed outs the face is surrounded by a disordered array of different colors and shapes possibly to reflect the madness for world around him in his diary charlie entered the following I come to the conclusion that most people around me had some extra sensory perception ability which gave
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him access to my mind in this respect I was like a blind man hence the crosses on the eyes but he also let me know verbally what they have picked up from my thoughts I was like a dumb man in this respect and heads to cross over the mouth across town days because I was becoming obsessed I had taken two sittings rather than one on the first portraits following day Charlie completed his next portraits that would continue to express his mental collapse what his featured as a face again done in a primitive style
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appears to have a mouth drawn over with opposite expressions several times with a smoking pipe rusting out of its a face is surrounded by black horn like shapes apparently bur horns of extrasensory perception functioning as grinning mouth possibly reflecting a feeling that people are constantly watching and constantly smiling in a menacing way the most shocking feature in the painting lies within the head of a portrait which is the blood of Charlie himself indicating the sheer desperation of his
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mental state at the time in his diary Charlie advised a following spots on the brain of the head of real blood to try and get over the mental pain I was experiencing I was smoking heavily hence the pipe no eyes to see what is really going on and a stitched up mouth the blood is my own I stab the base of my thumb not the kind of thing you're able to do when the tranquilizers still on only one tablet of two pixel and a sleeping pill and now I cannot go on
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much longer an export trade dated on the 29th of April shows a manic scene of disjointed facial features and beams of color the phrase love is strange can clearly be seen in the far right hand side of a painting yet another phrase underneath it appears to be hastily painted over possibly due to be overly compulsive nature of Charlie's mental condition a cigarette can also be seen in a painting continuing a theme was subsequently been crossed out this has made more clear in Charlie's diary
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things had really been getting out of hands a strange spiritual force was making me feel like I shouldn't smoke well I would to concur a disaster this was driving me crazy as I am normally a heavy smoker I kept taking high dosages for the next few days but nothing was really having any effect and I felt I might have to go to hospital on May 20 seconds it has made clear but Charlie's focus is dwindling further as his portrayed seem to lose consistency becoming less like self-portraits more
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like an inward scenic view of his mind with more features displays such as insectoid themes that would become more prevalent in his later portraits some themes seem to be continuing such as his smoking habits and his use of glaring eyes in a distance in his diary Charlie explained the following I was almost completely without energy this explains the similarly technique I hadn't the energy for anything else this is expressed by the pupae at orchid
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state and insects Spirit Express by a bird is crushed by the maggots my eat of his complex is represented by the hooded phallus my conflict of thoughts expressed by the man with two heads one is a nose a close line is to say that all my dirty washing or thoughts are on display split crosses are a reference to my schizophrenia being a type of ego crucifixion the man with the hat is watching me in keeping everything under his hats this reliever splits and across
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expressed his lack of real direction of a split in the will is with the man within those head portraits signed on may 6th appears to be returning to Charlie's typical style with a more blatant take on the self-portrait theme with obvious differences the bullseye above his head first is a feeling of constantly feeling targeted by people around him but the arrow is possibly symbolizing the cruel remarks Charlie believes something thrown at him a few days later on May 14th his an export
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train was completed this according to Charlie shows a more violent display of his ego erupting in a gory mess I also feel Rome was the real decider and actually crucified Christ my ego has been crucified my feelings opuses complex is summed up with my milega man italian I am a target with no hope of victory only total humiliation are completely acquiesce to this but I'm still deeply hurt all the time a theme of feeling
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like a target continues in this next portrait on May 18th depicted by a bleeding bull's eye pissed with a nail into the lips of Brian Charlie joining it as the scene of bloody horror and confusion the most prevalent feature being a giant mouth situated above Charlie's head representing his thoughts being put on display to other people due to his schizophrenia in his diary he writes the following my mind seemed to be thought broadcasting very severely and it was beyond my will to do anything
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about it I summed this up by painting my brain as an enormous mouth acting independently of me but troubles seem to me rightly or wrongly to stand from a broken heart on my left so I painted a great mass of gore there to express this the foot that connects to this is pushing the mouth open for the force to be broadcasted I feel I'm always divided against myself by myself again the nail in the mouth expresses my social ineptitude and an inability to socialize
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which makes me targets towards the end of May Charlie's portrait seemed to lean more towards his struggles with depression and heartbreak the blue colors of this painting signed on may 23rd symbolizes his depression alongside a giant mouth on his head yet again a metaphor for his thoughts he believed to be broadcasters Sam waves on either side of his head portrayed the paranoia of people reading his mind as well as his hatred for humiliation I'm really tired of having to explain my
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paintings it is very much my tragedy that people cannot understand a straightforward poetic use of symbols I am employing at this stage my central worry was thought broadcasting this would pass as I gained insights and effects a drug withdrawal wore off I was much worried about the radio and television because I seemed to intertwine with their broadcasted waves and exposed myself completely which I found humiliating people laughed at me when this happened let me know it was for real by acute remarks I
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continued my retreat from social contacts a theme of a broken heart takes a stage again in his next portrait signed May 24th what is displayed as a frenzied blood splattered hearts an interpretation of the depression Charlie was experiencing at the time the return of insectoid themes can be seen by over spider legs for treating out of the heart on the right perhaps a broken heart is the cause of it all certainly it hurts this has expressed the best I can on the left side the
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spider legs on the right are to express my inhibitions and the feeling that comes over me as my thoughts service and broadcast scary I feel all the time but I'm getting nearer to a more acute expression of my schizophrenia by June 1991 the peak of Brian Charlie's mental decline starts to take his toll his fear and altered understanding of his schizophrenia begins to unwind and his final six paintings as he continues to vary his dosage of medication to explain
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the nature of this portrait completed on June 8th Charlie wrote the following in his diary spider legs seem to be my essential condition a spider legs represents inhibition social and otherwise is this a truth from my condition I was to find out otherwise but it was certainly part of the truth the next portrait completed on June 13th is best explained by Charlie himself and his diary in which he discusses forced Oliver's technique compared to other artists as well as a frustration he
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feels towards criticism and social conflicts people crane their next to try and appreciate technique raving about Picasso's which is poetic discharge via symbols they swallow a camel to strain a gnat and say I cannot paint that my technique is at the service of my imagination perhaps it should be the other way round but then I find Picasso peculiarly bland strips of his technique while the later paintings anyway there is nothing wrong with my technique except when I have to try too hard
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because of a demands of my imagery people keep me in misery because they keep coming up to me was salt gossip about my past and I know nothing of Varys the eggs have been emptied like a head strips of his contents it has nothing left in it no more secrets it went to satisfy as somebody's appetites somebody that has power over me they enjoyed every tasty mouthful needless to say I feel suicidal so I painted van Gogh Scrolls from his final suicide picture of a wheat fields extrasensory
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perception horns voices as Mouse grinning birds come from eggs so the crows can also be like my thoughts flying away all this sort of gossip increases my fears of telepathy and is the main reason I feel suicidal still on only one and a half tabs depicts all three milligrams each on the 24th of May I cut out the antidepressant trips sold completely on June 19th Charlie expressed his feelings in a somewhat new display of a foot jams for
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a closing door with a face on it this painting appears to be keeping the themes on the mouths and eyes as well as what could be spider legs in the bottom left hand corner charli's brief feedback on his painting is as follows if a just wants a party an intrusion is my mental interior life like everybody has a foot in the door nails mouth and tongue-tied I have no effective replace them from a certain point of view the final three portraits of Brian Charlie could
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indicate the pinnacle of his mental condition as he expressed on this portrait completed on June 27th describing the painting as an extremely complicated picture as he felt he was closing in on the essential image of his schizophrenia one other theme has seemed to continue throughout his self-portrait series would be the symbolism of being nailed down or as Charlie sometimes described in crucified as nails and pins would make regular appearances in his work once again making an appearance in
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this painting around the mouth region which appears to be holding a cigarette again a spherical heads appears to be transparent possibly indicating Charlie's fears once again of other people reading his mind Charlie explains in his diary I made crazy attempts at some sort of control over what has become an impossible situation my brain my ego is transfixed by nails as the Christ it could not move freely on a cross without severe pain my
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self-respect my ego my feelings about me are crucified as the Christ on the 12th of July just days before his death his portrait was completed this time without any clear facial features presented instead the barrage of words such as enemy and rival planted over and over again across the painting the phrase the cards are no good for I am holding unless they are from another world is a line from series of Dreams by Bob Dylan a last track on the bootleg
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series vol 1 2 3 towards the bottom right hand corner of a painting appears to be quite an assortment of activity the round objects as well as what appears to be a syringe have indicate the medication that Charlie was taking up a time the crosses and what could be medicine tablets might signify of a decrease in dosage that he was taking symbolic nails that make a regular theme in his portraits appear once again as well the big bright blue word of hope could indicate his final desperation of believing he may conquer his own mind as
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it appears to be on the forefront of a painting but it's not entirely certain Charlie would unfortunately not document anything in his diary about this painting as well as his very last painting dated on the 19th of July 1991 before ending his own life many have believed this work to be unfinished due to the simplistic style of his painting compared to his other work but as his painting has clearly been dated in the bottom right hand corner like the rest of his work many other people believe otherwise it is also not entirely clear
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what day charlie dies the use of big bright red and yellow colors could be associated with his acute mental anguish at the time this phim is not unknown during this portraits created in May earlier that year following his suicide on Charlie's self-portrait series was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in 1995 in 2015 his work forms four subjects of the inaugural temporary exhibition at the newly reopened Bethlem Museum of the minds what makes Brian Charlie's final
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self-portrait series so fascinating is how brutally and honestly expresses the difficulties faced living with such a controlling mental condition the fact that his work was so heavily documented give support rates a truly moving story to tell continuing to inspire and spread awareness of mental health to this day thank you for watching this video I'm currently rebranding his channel at the moment and tackling dark themes within media art criminology and
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demonology and paranormal activity and things of alike so if you have any ideas for videos in the future please leave me a comment in the section below and I'll be sure to look into it in the meantime thank you again for watching and I'll see you in the next video [Music] you

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