Pablo Gerardo Camacho's illustrations are a means to know the things about ourselves that we might be hiding, purposefully or unconsciously.
Carl Jung, one of Freud’s most prominent disciples, believed that the unconscious aspect of our personality is embodied in a figure he called the “Shadow.” According to his theory, we all possess a dark side that is made up of all the thoughts that we don’t dare to say openly, as well as our fears, anxieties, and desires we might not even think we have because our conscious mind censors them. However, Jung stated that to reach true self-knowledge, it is important to know the dark side of ourselves as well. But how can we learn things about ourselves that we might not even be conscious about?
Illustrator Pablo Gerardo Camacho creates a visual approach to this theme, creating a mind-bending mix of colors and darkness that represents the many facets of our inner shadow. In a sort of visual dissection, his characters’ distorted features, mixed with other outer elements, like other faces, animals, and objects such as cigarettes or cellphones represent the chaos of our minds in macabre yet appealing images where human anatomy blends with the animalistic or the material. Perhaps that’s the best metaphor of our unconscious mind and its darkness, since the Shadow is also related to the most primal part of our brain, the “reptilian” brain that controls our most vital organs and focuses on survival, our basic needs, desires, and rawest emotions. Maybe that’s why the snake is often the best symbol he uses to represent this part of ourselves.
Besides the presence of snakes and cigarettes, he also creates a bizarre mixture of human features, representing the many faces that lie within ourselves. Using a style that remits us to Japanese art, he blends them so they seem to be in struggle with themselves and against each other. Each face appears to be a contradiction of the other. Where you see angry eyes, there’s an open mouth sighing, a hand calmly holding a cigarette, or distorted lips that fuse with another set of serene lips. Those contradictions enclosed in the same image, both in harmony and chaos, can be one of the best representations of our mind.
However, not everything in Pablo Camacho’s work is centered on the dark side of the human mind, but also in the macabre yet enticing figures hidden in the human body. When I previously said he creates dissections, I mean it. Another part of his work is his focus on the colorful and blood-curdling structure of the human body: bones, veins, muscles, the version of ourselves that goes beyond nakedness. As beautiful as it might be, I can’t help but wonder why do we feel chills when looking at a dissected body? What are the implications in that image that awaken the unconscious fear or disgust of witnessing a body set apart in an image? Maybe it’s the realization that there’s always something behind, a whole world and system hidden behind a mask. In these images, even the skin feels like a mask that hides those parts of ourselves we aren’t aware of.
While the images change, Pablo Camacho’s theme remains the same, and perhaps that’s the greatest quality of his images. He becomes a curious anatomist of the human body, unafraid of revealing in a metaphorical sense the physical and psychological secrets that, purposefully or not, we end up hiding. But he seems to follow Jung’s invitation to meet with our dark side, because in the end that’s the best path to self-knowledge, and so, a path to self-acceptance and improvement. If you want to see more of his work, check out his Instagram page.
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