David Cauchi

Self Portrait

2011
acrylic on canvas
720 x 1110mm

signed Cauchi and dated MMXI in brushpoint upper right

Provenance

Acquired from Ivan Anthony, 2011.

Exhibitions

This has to do with me, Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland, 2011.

Essay

Anne Collins Goodyear, writing on the subject of self-portraiture in the twentieth century, suggests that the dominant trend has been towards an eliding or subverting of the pri...

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Estimate $1,500 - $2,500
Achieved $4,370

David Cauchi

Self Portrait

2011

acrylic on canvas

signed Cauchi and dated MMXI in brushpoint upper right

720 x 1110mm

Auction N˚1

Estimate $1,500 - $2,500

Achieved $4,370

Footnotes
  1. Anne Collins Goodyear, “Repetition as Reputation: Repositioning the self-portrait in the 1960s and beyond” in W. W. Reaves, Reflections/refractions: Self-portraiture in the Twentieth Century (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press ; Lanham, 2009).
  2. David Cauchi, “The common-sense nihilist guide to art parahistory: An introduction,” Pointless and Absurd, 28 July 2011, http://pointlessandabsurd.blogspot.co.nz/2011/07/perspective-painting-proves-nothing.html

Self Portrait

by Andrew Clark

Anne Collins Goodyear, writing on the subject of self-portraiture in the twentieth century, suggests that the dominant trend has been towards an eliding or subverting of the primary status of the artist, in line with Roland Barthes’ concept of the “death of the author.” For Goodyear, this tendency can be seen in the playfully metamorphic self-portraits of Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns, and in the anti-portraiture stance of Chuck Close.¹

In this context, David Cauchi’s Self Portrait represents a conundrum. What are we to make of this close-up image of the artist, rakishly sporting a fez and sunglasses, labelled unambiguously as ridiculous, like a specimen in a museum or a figure in an instructional manual? Cauchi’s work sits in the uncomfortable space between cartooning and painting, in the way he accompanies his line-and-wash images with cryptic messages, somewhat reminiscent in tone of the art-comics of David Shrigley. However, he is also determined to locate his practice in relation to art history, as indicated by works such as Cauchi contra mundum (2011), which consists of multiple canvasses arranged in the form of a Renaissance altarpiece, the central panel being a pastiche of Pierro Della Francesca’s Resurrection. That painting is also a self-portrait, with Cauchi himself in the position of the risen Christ, draped in a leather jacket and flashing a defiant two-fingered salute to both the viewer and Roland Barthes—dead he may be, but down he isn’t.

Self Portrait is a more nuanced representation of the artist, aware of his own flaws and inadequacies, but nevertheless willing to put himself on display, to engage with both the viewer and his own work in a way which is reciprocal and reflexive. Cauchi glances downwards, his eyes almost completely obscured by the dark black wash of his sunglasses. His facial expression is ambiguous—lips pursed in annoyance, or contrition, or perhaps even the beginnings of a wry smile. The bright red fez he wears dominates the image, representing either some bizarre act of penance or a defiant gesture of individualism. His “ridiculous” status can be read as a comment on the place of the artist in relation to his work, subject to judgement and ridicule, but it is also indicative of an understanding that the creation of an artistic persona, like the practice of art-making itself, is a process which cannot ever be completely free from irony or self-doubt.