It all started with a papier-maché cherub on sale in a French art / decoration shop, a kitsch reference to the couple of supporting characters at the base of Raphael Sanzio’s painting, ‘The Madonna of San Sisti’. One of the qualities of this painting is how the Mother and Child seem to gaze into the infinite, while the two cherubs below nonchalantly witness the spectacle.
On unexpectedly finding this crass reference to a popular image taken from Renaissance art, something concerning the portrayal of looking out beyond the frame was awakened within me. To date, an awful lot of my work had been tied up with looking inwards, and the idea of mirrors came to mind. With mirrors, one looks towards a light reflecting surface only to find an isolated image looking outwards and back at the original viewer. An interplay between self and image of ‘self’ is obviously happening here. We construct the necessity of there having to be a three dimensional space in which this experience could happen and, yes, this three dimensional, kitsch, papier-maché cherub certainly would fit the space.
The original idea was to simply make a box containing a glass mirror with the cherub at its base. A relatively large picture frame covered in strips of brown paper with the words, “Do you see myself?” printed on them would surround it. The idea would have been clearly expressed but the experience of looking would have been very boring. Transferring this textual idea to the mirror surfaces themselves was obviously the thing to do and, of course, in asking the question, an answer should well follow. As is the nature of a mirror image, the subject and the object of the sentence could be reversed to reflect the original question and answer. The ensuing quadruplet could be inverted and again reversed before returning to the original proposition:
Do you see myself? I see yourself. You see myself, do I see yourself?
You see myself, do I see yourself? Do you see myself? I see yourself.
It was also fitting to repeat the exercise in French (for the benefit of family and friends), thus allowing a subject to look through one language to see into and through another. The activity of translating what one understands as being seen also becomes a part of this gazing experience. All this mental activity, and throughout, our little kitsch cherub continues to gaze into the infinite.
Mixed Media : Printed text applied to acrylic sheet, mirror glass with papier-maché cherub mounted in wooden box frame.