Ideas underpinning the Faceless men: a collaboration
Canberra artists, Gary Smith and Frank Thirion collaborated on a joint work for the 2012 Archibald Prize, called Faceless Men. The portrait is concerned with themes of identity, interrogation, and making those who might remain invisible, present.
Medium for the works: Frank Thirion: Oil paint, wax on canvas, Gary Smith: Acrylic & pigment on canvas, 245 x 185cms, 2012
This collaboration arises from ongoing dialogue about practice that the two artists have sustained since they shared adjoining studios at the ANU School of Art when they were undertaking postgraduate studies, in painting.
The work consists of four panels, two from each artist, one a self portrait and the other a portrait of their collaborator. It is tonally constrained, and consciously blends and contrasts two distinct painterly approaches—realism and gestural expressionism.
It continues the artistic tradition of self-portraiture through exploring self, other, and parallel universes using mirrors and role playing. Tension and unease emanate from the work as it counterpoints those who wield power invisibly, unaccountably, beyond recognition—with the liminal status of artist in our culture, to suggest the precarious and uncertain world we all inhabit.
The portrait opens a dialogue with the audience about portraiture, about artistic identity, and about what constitutes painting itself. The subject of this work is really the viewer's response, as they are reflected back on self by sunglassed men not returning their gaze.