Wednesday, June 25, 2014

About Face - Concept and Ground Work

I painted a large self portrait dyptich recently for the Puke Ariki museum's Homework exhibition of Taranaki artists work.

I had photographed it's stages of development from the beginning with the intention of blogging them here in "real time". However, as always with new and experimental work, I found my need to work in privacy overcame any desire to share the trials and tribulations of that working process in public.

But now the painting is on the wall and the paint is almost dry, I feel more comfortable with sharing the documentation.

I have for the last few years been concentrating on modest scale works in my Postcard From Puniho series. But recently I have felt the desire, confidence and ambition to do some larger scale work again.

 The question is "what subject"? Well, the self portrait is a genre that I have returned to many times, especially when I feel at some kind of cross-road in my life. Just turning round and taking a good hard and hopefully, honest look in the mirror.

The thing I often experience when looking in a mirror is that, obvious though it may seem to say, the point of view is never changing. We are always there smack bang in the middle of the picture! But if there are two mirrors, we see two reflections. Ever since I was a small boy, these perfectly natural and obvious phenomenom have held a great sense of mystery and fascination for me.

So I thought, what if I paint it like I was looking in two mirrors simultaneously? Or perhaps the same mirror but a different tilt or turn of the head in a different moment in time.  I would paint it as a dyptich. 

When I am painting and studying the subject intensely I quite often find myself closing one or the other eye. I think a lot of painters experience this. Occasionally I catch myself in the mirror like that and I have done one or two small self portraits with one eye closed and one open. It seemed like an interesting thing to try out in the dyptich, having one image with the left eye open and the other image with the right eye open. In total, both eyes are open! Or both shut if you will.

Well, it seemed like a bit of a crazy idea but what the hey... if it doesn't work, it's only a painting...

I had recently got some large sheets made with a thin aluminium skin on a core of plastic. They use it for signs but I've discovered it makes a very strong surface for painting on and is slightly lighter than the hardboard panels I used to use. I glued wooden bracing on the back using an epoxy resin. The front is coated with about five coats of acrylic gesso.

I wasn't sure how to start so I just grabbed the biggest brush I could find and holding a small hand mirror in the other, I roughed out the first image.