When I made this painting I was thinking about identity and in particular how it is not inherently fixed onto a person, but rather, it is continually shaped in social space, and how it always takes form in relation to other people as well as the context a person finds herself/ himself in.
Keeping this in mind, I wanted to create an open ended piece which is not fixed and original and which includes not only the meaning I wanted to give to the artwork but also allow for other possible interpretations – again, depending on the particular audience viewing the piece as well as the context it is viewed in.
I thought this was particularly challenging to do in an oil painting as they tend do be more often seen as fixed original and intentional objects, especially if one thinks at the artwork produced by modernist artists, this was in fact, what they set themselves to achieve: artworks that are fixed in their meaning, original and separate from life and its particular context.
However I was also aware that in comparison to performance or body art in general my work would have had some limitations, such as the fact that although I am both subject/object because I have included myself in the painting and I am the art maker, my body is “without organs” and is a representation rather than the real thing: a breathing, living, thinking, feeling and desiring body. But my aim was to provide another perspective, particularly on painting, and try to break down the assumptions regarding its absolute status, especially when considering that painting is often seen as the medium of the male artist par excellence and women – apparently the muses inspiring his genius - where reduced to mere objects that aroused the artists as well as the (supposedly male) viewers pleasure.
So, by including the mirror in the artwork, I wanted to link the piece back with its context and the world; art and life are therefore no longer separated but they support each other in a constant flux. The reflection of the mirror becomes part of the painting and the painting needs its surrounding for the reflection. In addition, the piece is never fixed: light reflected will never be the same at different moments in time, the background provided by the mirror will always change depending on the viewers and where the artwork is viewed.
Another possible limitation for this piece could be that I am a “thin white body” and I am not trying to break pleasure but I actually instigate it. With regards to the former, I think that that the “thin white body” is who I am, and as an artist, I still want to be able to provide my own point of view regardless of the colour of my skin, or what I look like – even though they might be regarded as “normative” features. Sometimes I think discrimination could also work the other way around. In addition, although I do not have any visible marks or features pointing to specific body alienation, this does not mean that I am not an alienated subject. With regards to trying to instigate rather than break down pleasure, this is what I actually wanted to do, but by including the mirror so that the viewer is also reflected in the painting, she/he can no longer remain veiled and hide her/his own investments and desires; this, for me, is what allows myself not to be objectified, and not by simply trying to avoid at all cost pleasure, as most women artists working in a strictly anti-essentialist manner would often claim.
Moreover, by reflecting the viewer onto the painting she/he becomes also both subject and object and thus the relationship between viewers and the artwork/artist becomes interdependent and intersubjective, and it is a relationship which is based on simultaneous subjective/objective identifications rather than one which, as in most of Western painting tradition, gave absolute status and power to the disembodied viewing subjects objectifying the body-woman. The viewer is no longer veiled or disembodies and thus can no longer make any disinterested and absolute claims, but rather, has to acknowledge her/his own contingency, motives and investments.
This artwork seems to be really popular, every time someone sees it in my studio they always ask me about it. And it is funny because although I am a representation in this piece, people seem to give for granted that I am a real body and one of the question I am often asked is what am I thinking about, which to me is also quite interesting for the fact that, by looking at my body posture, the way my head is turned towards the mirror I give the impression that I am pensive - and not the other way around “I think therefore I am”.
Another thing I like about this work is that it really does engage with its surroundings and with the audience, often I find people checking themselves in the mirror, or I get told what a great idea I had to include a mirror in a painting – for its use value to be put in a bedroom for example - and they want to commission me with a similar piece. So I can say that although there might be some limitations regarding this work, I think I have perhaps managed to merge art (in particular painting) and life, as well as subject with object, but most of all I hope I was able to create an interdependent and mutual relationship between the audience, the artwork and the world, as well as challenge common assumption about women, painting and art viewing.