In the past I have been asked what my reasons are/were for painting self-portraits.
During my 2003 exhibition at Jackman Gallery I had many people comment on the similarities between the faces of my Geisha paintings and my own; a lot seeing a definite resemblance, some even asking if one or two of them were me. None of them were. Personally I could not see the similarities but perhaps I subconsciously painted elements of myself in them all. I certainly felt a strong connection with the works, (at first without even truly understanding why), which stemmed from my fascination with Geisha and their painted faces and flawless aesthetic perfection.
Just after beginning that body of work I flew up to Sydney to meet with artist, Margarita Georgiadis. I arrived at her studio as a Gallery Manager but conversed with her as an artist. We talked about art for hours and it was the first time I had really openly discussed my work and influences with anyone. Our in depth conversation prompted me to investigate the reasons behind this influential allurement of mine even further. I was fascinated with my discoveries and the (deeper) psychological connection I had with my subject and just how symbolic the Geisha's perfection and painted faces were. I certainly was not just painting them because they looked pretty.
It was the first time someone had really pushed me to explore my art further, someone other than myself that is. I began to then realise so many things about my work, (that had quite possibly been obvious to others), that I had perhaps been avoiding, as they were somewhat confrontational. I am still grateful for that conversation with Margarita, and also grateful that we ultimately became friends rather than business associates.
It is amazing how sometimes we, (or perhaps I should only speak for myself and say 'I'), can paint something and not completely understand what or why we have created a particular piece until some time later. I recently watched a musician's acceptance speech where he said that sometimes it is not until a particular song has been recorded and listened to a few times that he actually 'gets it' himself or understands exactly what he was trying to say or what the song ultimately means. It was along those lines anyway, and for a brief moment I felt a refreshing wave of empathy flow through me.
I didn't paint a self-portrait until preparing for my exhibition the following year. I never saw it as an ego driven desire, (to paint oneself), but I suppose many would argue that it is. I felt comforted by the fact that most, if not all, artists go through a self-portrait phase at some stage of their career. For me, self-portraits became a form of artistic self-exploration. More recently, however, I guess it has more to do with my lack of resources as we no longer live in the city and I no longer have any models other than myself. Besides, there is no subject one can know better than oneself, or you would at least hope this to be the case. Perhaps self-portraits allow me to get to know myself even better.