Notes: Masks – The Art of Expression

27th October 2021

The following notes have been taken from the book: Masks – The Art of Expression, edited by John Mack.

Red text are notes relating to my work for Assignment 5

Fig. 1 Lyons, B. (2017) Royal Peacock mask

Preface (pg7). “…broader cultural patterns, concepts of the body and the social or personal transformations implied in concealing or changing appearance.”

Both concealing and changing appearance – hiding my perceived ugliness and changing appearance with use of make-up, hair dye and coloured hair.

Introduction about face: Masking terminologies (pg12) “… The emphasis of the term in English is on the act of ‘concealment’… Masking, masquerade, is disguise – and by extension perhaps even deception or pretence. The reference is to the altered appearance of the masker rather than the to the status of the portrayal.”

I am the masker altering my appearance. I am deceiving people and pretending that everything is fine when behind the mask I look and feel like rubbish due to my mental health and abuse suffered in my past.

Introduction about face: Masking terminologies (pg13) “…Another habit of the English language that belies our expectations of general masking practice is that we tend to distinguish the mask from anything else that might be associated with it. We talk of the mask and separately, of the masquerade costume.”

My mask will symbolise beauty, the peacock showing off for all to see. However behind that mask I hide, the real introvert, who dislikes her appearance, the ugliness I have been brought up to believe I am.

The masquerade costume however is invisible, my day to day clothes gone and in their place, nothing. They are gone leaving behind my naked body, hideous deformity of fat and overhang caused by illness in pregnancy. The nakedness symbolises my vulnerability, when naked I am shamed further by the hidden voice in my head.

Masks and theatrical performance.

The Other Within: Masks and Masquerades in Europe – Masks: mastering transformation in times of crises (pg194) “In Europe, as elsewhere, masks are paradoxical in their use: as Mesnil and Napier have noted, they at once transform and fix identities. In concealing individual identity, they simultaneously transform it into something radically different – to the extent that tearing the mask from somebody’s face is an act of abomination… masks simplify mutable individual mood and status by providing permanent identities… The role-playing that a masker takes on in choosing this or that masquerading costume, is no simple celebration of freedom and creativity, but formalises action: the behaviour of masks is expected, even prescribed. Thus we cannot understand masks without considering the action context of the masquerade. Only when in full swing can the effect of the combination of transformation and fixity be appreciated.”


Fig. 1 Lyons, B. (2017) Royal Peacock mask [Photograph] At: (Accessed 27.10.21)



Mack, J. (1998) Masks: The Art of Expression (3rd Ed.) British Museum Press: London

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