'I pinch myself' - Valerie Burgess

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London View Inspiration Details

Artist Statement

Valerie Burgess

I first set eyes on my source of inspiration whilst browsing the V&A website. It was bold and comical but with an air of unease. I had to see it for myself.

Entering the V&A from the underground tunnel entrance, I wasn’t expecting my source of inspiration to be tucked away in a corner. And I was startled to find that this 17th Century bust was so alarmingly different from those it shared the room with.

The facial expression was extreme, strained and instantly beguiling. Further research led me to images of the 69 other busts from this artist’s collection. Each one a contorted countenance produced from a place of psychological pain and physical suffering.

I decided that I wanted to create a series of self portraits conveying pain, inner turmoil and anguish - but how would I go about it?

‘I pinch myself’ is a triptych of self portraits. Each self-portrait is the result of pinching myself whilst looking in the mirror and recording my facial expressions.

I took over 50 photographs and made multiple sketches and drawings before developing the three most powerful images.

Working on A3 paper allowed me to sketch life-size (rather than up or down scale) and I chose pastel as it’s a comfortable medium for me to work quickly in.

Finally, I chose a black background and minimal vivid colours to dramatise the effect of the images.

I attend Julia Colmenares' painting and drawing course at Morley College. Her encouragement to be bold and brave has given me huge confidence in my own working style.

'I pinch myself' - Valerie Burgess

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inspiration details:

The Strong Smell


Pressburg (made) Bratislava (Bratislava was formerly known as Pressburg., made)

ca. 1770 - June 1781

Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

Metal alloy (lead-tin?)

V&A collection reference number(s):

Exhibition Guide

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