Sunday, May 1, 2011

Arthur Wicks' Head, Everything and DIY Stretcher Bars

I looked into the price of stretcher bars and realised that my budget for the project couldn't fund the amount of stretcher bars I would need plus the canvas and paint for the project.  To cut costs I decided I'd make my own from 42mm x 19mm dressed pine.  Above is a picture with three stretched canvases from my DIY activities.  

I have begun working with intensive studies of the bust Arthur gave me, for Everything.  My supervisor for this project informed me that I have to fill out a risk assessment type of form for portraying people as part university of the University's policy.  When I told him that so far I hadn't been drawing anyone from life and that I'm drawing the bust Arthur gave me he said that I don't need to get consent from an "inanimate object".  This particularly interested me because of the recent Archibald Prize winner Ben Quilty whose Portrait of Margaret Olley was painted from a photograph.  A photograph is a flat print of a rendering of light usually resulting in a picture.  I wondered if I was painting a photograph of Arthur would I still be required to get the consent?  I probably would, but not if it's a cast bust from Arthur's face, which is still a depiction of Arthur.  Ben Quilty didn't depicted his portrait of Olley as a painting of a portrait photograph.  There was no mention of the surface and texture of the photographic print, or the thickness or weight of the paper, or the pixels as viewed from a computer screen, or any clues about the fact that he had worked from a photograph, other than that he said that he had.

I'm doing something a bit different in my use of the bust.  In my work, Wicks' bust isn't a technology for me to reference the face of my subject, it represents the negotiation between myself and Arthur around the limits of Arthur to be involved in the work.  When I met Arthur I asked if I could meet up with him once a week and draw, and I drew a parallel to the therapist patient relationship in psychoanalysis.  Arthur didn't want that level of commitment in my work for whatever reason, he might not have wanted to spend so long with a stranger or maybe just doesn't like to plan his life that far in advance - whatever the reason, the result was that he loaned me this bust which I accepted.  This bust is an artifact of the story between the artist and the subject, an event that occurred from the meeting.

Portraiture made up entirely of objects isn't a radical notion.  Michael Zavros' painting Ars longa, vita brevis was a finalist in the 2009 Archibald Prize and features cosmetic items with no depiction of the facial likeness of the subject.  The subject is portrayed through the items selected and painted by the artist  and arranged to appear like a skull.

In the previous blog post I mentioned the portraiture practice of Riceke Dijkstra, whose portraits outline the awkwardness of certain subjects revealing their individuality through their deiberate attempts of concealment and blending in to avoid the dangers of intimacy, the result is that we get clues about them, about how they attempt to do so which can reveal defenses, prejudices or expectations about them which we can make inferences from about their character and personality.  The same types of inferences can be made when the subject offers a bust instead of commiting to a regular session meetings.  Maybe it tells us that Arthur has better ways to spend his time?

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