NARCISSUS / SELF-PORTRAIT 15
materials: silver 935 (moulded) / brass / leather / pearwood
dimensions: 43 x 86 x 43 cm
Photographs on location:
Teylers Museum, Haarlem
The self-portrait is not a customary subject in sculpture, as it is in painting. Sculptors rarely portray themselves, though in more recent art history the phenomenon has established a place for itself. The self-portraits by early Italian painters were referred to as Ritratto allo specchio (portrait in the mirror). It is this term, with its many possible interpretations, that lies at the basis for the development of Narcissus / Self-portrait 15.
Historically, silver has been regarded as the ultimate material for the production of an optical mirror. It has given us the possibility to see ourselves, and to form a self-image, albeit an inverted one. Narcissus / Self-portrait 15 is a silver ovoid that reflects the world around it. The object is reminiscent of an instrument of measurement. With its brass stands and transport case it might be an object to be taken on a journey, and to serve in the world of the scientific experiment.
When the ovoid is opened, a self-portrait is revealed in two forms, a positive and a negative. Rather than an optical reflection, this is a physical reflection. As a viewer, in the positive cast we see the head's exterior boundaries. The negative shows the viewer the head from within. The skin thus forms the boundary between public space and our private space. In the closed ovoid, these two worlds merge as in a prayer nut; open, it becomes an outsize, narcissistic medallion. If Narcissus / Self-portrait 15 is viewed from a distance, the negative cast is seen as a positive one, prompting us to question what our grasp of our self-image actually amounts to.