In literature, an unreliable narrator is one whose credibility has been compromised — either due to a lack of maturity, or, in the case of this series of paintings, an altered or compromised mental state. Paired with the discrepancies between the experiencing self and the remembering self, I’ve come to realize that not only do I remember the same events differently than others, but I also remember different things. Perhaps this difference is an unconscious emphasis on different aspects of the same memories, but it feels decidedly unique.
My own unreliability wasn’t obvious at first. Experiencing a great deal of loss at a very young age warped my own perception of my experiences as a child. The realization of my family’s existence as primarily a unit of remembrance — of grieving — came late into my teenage years. I wanted to explore the scenario of my current self, reflecting and engaged with but still apart from, distinct memories. These memories are represented as photographs I had the opportunity to take upon revisiting the site of the initial memory.
The paintings in An Unreliable Narration became a dreamscape, an escape from experiencing cognitive dissonance within my own self. My recollections of my life circumstances are coloured by how I feel about them, five, ten, even fifteen years after the initial event. Do I alter my memories to better suit the narrative I’m currently living? Am I trying to create a happily-ever-after for my life before it’s even over? Robert N Kraft, Ph.D., a professor of Cognitive Science at Otterbein University, writes that, “In art, we only get one chance at a last impression. In life, however, we don’t have the obligation for a masterful conclusion.”