Self Portrait with Others (looking at, looked at) from University of Queensland Art Museum, 2017 National Self Portrait Prize. Curators: Glenn Barkley and Holly Williams, www.thecuratorsdepartment.co
Porcelain tiles and ceramic media. Overall 120 x 95 cm.
For some time now I’ve largely set aside my usual practice as a maker of domestic objects, jugs, cups, etc., and embarked upon a project of painting portraits. I wanted to step outside my normal area and see what happened. I’ve been attending a weekly portrait-painting group to work with a model and at the same time have been taking a lot of photographs of friends, family and colleagues with the aim of painting from them. I’ve found these two types of looking and image making interesting for a variety of reasons, one being, for instance, how surprised I am at the tenderness I feel toward models after a few hours of scrutiny and painting, even though they are perfect strangers. As a way of thinking through some of the ideas generated by looking - at friends and strangers, at portraits and motivations – I’ve developed this work and included images of both myself and of others. For me it documents a time where I’ve stepped somewhat outside my usual identity.
I’ve turned back to ceramics for this self-portrait after a period of working primarily with oils and watercolour because I love the qualities and challenges of the particularly pristine porcelain tiles used here. The surface is totally non-porous so the pigments slide around, colour runs and pools, becomes translucent - or not - and so it is very hard to predict what will happen to an image as the pigment dries, or in the kiln; I’d forgotten how much I liked this uncertainty.