Self Portrait; or, I'm a long way from home

April 22, 2017





Self portrait; or, I'm a long way from home - Oil on canvas 95cm x 135cm

My work often has a sub-context even if at first sight it seems strictly representational. I don't really like to explain paintings too much but I suppose this concept is a little more abstract and possibly requires some explaining. This is my latest self portrait. It's the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of psychobiographical landscapes. It is painted directly over a self portrait that had tormented and subsequently led me into a period of depression. I am attempting here to visualise something of how it felt to be in that state. The impasto remanence of the original self portrait is clearly visible in the right light and important to the work. This is as much a self portrait as any other I have painted. 


The physical self portrait that is underneath the landscape is the original version of the self portrait below (self portrait, in the studio. 2015). Things got bad enough that I had to discard the original version and start again. It was at this time that the concept to try and visualise this all too human experience came about. I had a psychological block with that canvas,  which was quite evident as it only took a few weeks to finish the second version, having spent over 3 months languishing with the first. 


I think a lot of people battle with some degree of depression, a word I hesitate to use. For me it's a question of getting the balance right, however in this instance the balance was more than a little off. Evidently I'm no writer, and the writers I like such as Hemingway would probably say that I have said too much already, it's what I like most about Hemingway, he doesn't really tell me how it felt, he writes so well and true that I feel it for myself.


Self Portrait, in the studio. 2015

The original composition was obviously in a portrait format, I've inverted two versions of the painting here. If you look closely you should be able to make out the original self portrait. I have crudely highlighted it in red in the second version (I should probably get this photoshop thing at some point). 

The study for the painting was painted in Ireland over the summer. I was painting near Malahide in North County Dublin and it was a typically stormy June day. I was actually painting this view of Malahide harbour at the time, the storms all seemed to be happening around me or in the distance towards Wicklow, but then the atmosphere quickly changed. 


Malahide harbour, storm - Oil on panel 22cm x 38cm 

I looked around and saw that the storm front was coming directly towards me, in fact it was all around me. It immediately evoked a sense of what I had in mind for the self portrait so I turned the easel around, put up a fresh panel and started to paint in the opposite direction. The storm fronts came in waves and although the rain was heavy at times there was enough relief and a repeating of the fronts for me to get what I wanted. 


Psychological landscape study - Oil on panel 20cm x 35cm


 Working from the study in the studio 



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