CAN Exercise 3.1 Autobiographical Self-Portraiture


The brief presented three artists known for using themselves in their image-making; Francesca Woodman, Elina Brotherus and Gillian Wearing. We were asked to reflect on their work and undertake research.

Francesca Woodman

For a more detailed appraisal of Francesca Woodman go here.

Elina Brotherus

In 2012 Brotherus produced an autobiographical self-portrait project called ‘Annunciation’ documenting her unsuccessful IVF treatment between 2008 and 2012.

Could this project be viewed as Narcissistic or self-indulgent? To answer this question, we need to consider the original context of the project and the reasons she chose to feature herself.

When interviewed by Christian Lund for the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Brotherus describes producing the project so that others experiencing involuntary childlessness can see the images and realise that they are not alone (Brotherus and Lund, 2019). Her motives would be considered altruistic rather than Narcissistic or self-indulgent.

But why did she feature herself? There may be two fundamental reasons; emotional and artistic.

The issue of involuntary childlessness and the ensuing unsuccessful IVF treatment involved was a profoundly emotional matter for Brotherus. She describes wishing to use her body to give a voice to topics that remain unspoken. It would seem natural for her to draw upon her own emotions to authentically portray the subject to her audience.

Artistically this project has a typological dimension in the sense that it follows Brotherus over five years to show nuanced emotions. Drawing out the subtle emotional changes in a visually consistent manner necessitates the use of just one subject.

Gillian Wearing

Having read Wearing’s book ‘Mass Observation’ and viewed the Album series I must confess to finding her work thoroughly inaccessible. There’s something spooky and visually unappealing.


Brotherus, E. and Lund, C. (2019). Elina Brotherus Demystifying the Image. Available at: [Accessed 25 Nov. 2019].

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