The Mirror series paintings (2017) was sponsored by Arts Council England with Grants for the Arts funding and Lancaster University (Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts) comprising a solo exhibition at The Storey Gallery, Lancaster in November 2017.
This series of new paintings (2017) began as an exploration into mirrors and reflections. Using antique shaped mirrors, stencils were made of their distinctive outlines. Some sketches and paintings resulted in studies about light, shadow and interior worlds. The initial source of reference was my hall at home. This naturally dark space is brightened by accumulated old mirrors populating each wall. A Hall of Mirrors.
As this enquiry progressed some mirrors morphed into heads. The resultant paintings are reductive offering simple outlines and stances yet do portray character and mood - what Kevin O’Brien in the accompanying catalogue essay accurately describes as being ‘deliberately ersatz’.
Some of these paintings acknowledge the explosion of de-formalised self portraiture through mobile ‘phone technology - a self-regarding yet popular activity which, in the main, rarely offers much context to the third party viewer. Selfies are a kind of mirror but a mirror is a magic device. It seems other worldly. It may be a portal through which, like Alice and her Looking Glass, we might climb through to explore worlds both familiar and unfamiliar.
These paintings are incongruous - some are whimsical, some may seem dark or disturbing but most attempt to question through animation of the inanimate to what degree we use masks of our own making to deflect others from seeing our true selves.
What are these figures? Where are they? What are they doing and why do they challenge our gaze? Perhaps they are wholly unaware, lost in their dream world on the other side of the glass. Cinema’s ‘Master of Suspense’, Alfred Hitchcock, in his groundbreaking interviews with French film maker, François Truffaut, remarked: “There’s no such thing as a face—it’s non-existent until the light hits it.” We might say the same when confronting and thinking about mirrors.
Much has been written about the portrait and also the phenomenon of the mirror in painting. However, the real curiosity is painting itself and its magical properties - how it commands our attention and stimulates thoughts we may not have thought before.