* At the Royal Academy – Summer Exhibition 2015
One of the many pieces that I found particularly interesting were “Double Dipper Self-Portrait” and “Fifty Years Ago: Then and Now” by Royal Academician Anthony Green. The medium: oil on board with brass rods.
Both pieces were hung side by side in the corner of the gallery at about hip level. As I walked around taking in an overwhelming amount of visual stimuli I approached these pieces head on. I walked towards them quite drawn by their vivacity and unusual composition. That particular corner was a little crowded. So, I took a glance, thought them interesting and headed towards another area of the gallery to avoid the masses. I’m not fond of crowds and would much rather avoid them, returning to a space when there are fewer people and more room to breathe. Anyhow, as I turned to be on my way, both pieces seemed to slowly morph in a very unexpected kind of way. That’s when I immediately went back to take a better look. (Thankfully others were ready to move on so I had access to my personal space)
It’s a good thing these were both hung as low as they were because one needs to peer through the work, under them, over them and through the sides in order to take them all in. It is completely impossible to view the entire piece all at once in a single glance. Green has forced the viewer to piece it all together in his/her head. The only way to that is to get as close as possible to the painting and take a visual trip all the way around the piece as best you can! You, as a viewer, are forced to get right into the painting’s personal space.
The first painting “Double Dipper Self-Portrait” is comprised of 2 layers of boards. It shows the profile of the artist on the right hand side holding on to a brush as he paints a self-portrait that has been placed behind the painting and seems to peer out of the “canvas” through a hole in the top-most board. On the left hand side there is a mirror. The reflection in the mirror is not of the artist who is painting but rather what seems to be a depiction of his younger self. The artist is seeing what he used to look like or reflecting on the past, on his life, on what he used to be and his experiences or even thoughts as a younger person. Back on the right side of the canvas the reflection seen in the artist’s glasses is that of the painting. The “double dip” is the bizarre depiction of the female figure in the water pot (or turpentine) and the idea of the dipping of one’s brush in the paint. I’m only assuming that the female figure may well be a past love interest that the artist is also reminiscing as he thinks of his younger self in the mirror.
The second painting “Fifty Years Ago: Then and Now” is a little different in that there are four layers of boards used and the first window into the next board although also through the canvas in the painting is much smaller that the first painting. However, I think this painting is also a reflection of the artist’s life as he is seen in a chair seated in what looks like his studio surrounded by his work. The female figure standing in his studio seems to be the same female who is taking a dip on the artist’s pallet in the previous painting. However, here the four layers of board seem to represent very different stages of life. One board opens into the next revealing the layers of life experiences that bleed into on another.
Both pieces are a direct commentary of the passage of time. Both question the use of space within time and the layering of time chronologically. They also bring into question the effect of past experiences on present interactions that we may or may not be directly aware of in the moment.
There is an awkward three dimensionality to the style of painting that really reminds me of Van Gogh’s painting especially his 1888 work “Bedroom in Arles” and the idea of having layer upon layer of self portraits within a painting also reminds of the iconic work of Velazquez “Las Meninas” (1656) due to Valazquez’s playful depiction of self and self portraiture within a piece that is meant to be highly intimate and private yet is being interjected by the presence of a painter. So too is life’s most private thoughts and experiences that are deliberately being exposed and reflected upon by the artist here. Although, here it seems that it is his own life that is being unpacked as opposed to someone else’s.