Great Unmasking

Masks are universal and have been around for thousands of years. They served in ritual contexts to visualize fears, the unexplained, spirits and demons. But now it’s all different as most rituals are lost, but masks multiplied – they are everywhere. They are faces that look at us from the screens of our TV’s, tabs, smartphones, on the street and in the office. 

Masks provide us with the possibility to take on another personality and hide behind it. They let us convey things that we otherwise would not. They create a world of illusions that is infinite in its freedom to be whatever we want or need to be. We all wear them… so many that it would take a very conscious effort to dig beneath them all to find out, who we really are.

But why be real if the mask sits well? Isn’t it nice to have a great feeling of empowerment overwhelm you, when you (even unknowingly) let go of yourself and become a concept? Isn’t life a grand theatre anyway and aren’t we the actors?

In a golden age of networking technology the limits of interpersonal communication are on a new level, we’re expanding the theatre. When there are viewers – we act. We act as if… as if we were rich or poor, successful, powerful or weak, lovers or haters, tough or fragile, fat or skinny, or any other way. We wear masks to regain anonymity, for enjoying liberty and power to be seemingly free, to seem whatever you want and whatever no one would expect of you, to act without taboos. A world as a masquerade, where all your fantasies, however vivid or exotic they may be, can become a reality. A state, where anything can happen that you wish for is real. The ultimate ability to sculpt your image to fit or contrast the mood of the actor or the viewer.

But there’s a flip side to this coin. Not only do we get lost in the sea of masks that we see on other people instead of their true personalities, but also our own masks may become many. And we (at least I) do feel the need to see through this masquerade sometimes. To do so there is no better starting point than yourself. To explore the world of masks I’ve created the “Great Unmasking” series by putting my own masks on canvas. 

Tartuffe, oil on canvas, 100*100 cm, 2017
“There’s a vast difference, so it seems to me,
Between true piety and hypocrisy:
How do you fail to see it, may I ask?
Is not a face quite different from a mask?” (1.5.9)

Tartuffe is a bridge between two series of paintings – the Great Unmasking and Fuzzy Concepts. I’m afraid that characterising this artwork as one that veils the unveiling is too vague, but it may be just right…

Imperfect Conscience, oil on canvas, 100*120 cm, 2017
We grasp truth within the limitations of reason…

First there was red on canvas. A red so bright, shiny, hot like lava. A ruby-like brilliant flow that cooled down and solidified all the traces of its movement for ages to see. And it cooled down just enough for a new layer of marvelous, transparent blue to appear on the surface like the oceans that after being vapor explored a new liquid state. As we know – where’s water there could be life. That is exactly what came to be on earth 3.8 billion years ago in a goo-like substance, where amino acids bonded to form primitive prokaryotic cells like the yellow lumpy substance that became the starting point for the multitude of shapes and forms that we simply call life. Life interacts with the blue to get the green, with the red to get the orange. Through these interactions it got not just new colors, but forms. Among the shapes that appeared was a resemblance of a mask – a symbol of life with conscience that sprung up from spontaneity. The Imperfect Conscience was born.

Silhouette, oil on canvas, 100*100 cm, 2016
The “Silhouette” mask is an ode to multiplicity of meanings, views and facets of personalities that combine to form its Identity. In this painting all shapes and lines are composed of silhouettes. Hundreds of silhouettes come together to create a single mask. Moreover all silhouettes have two sides to them – a bright and a dark one, which are also made up of more layers that echo each small face as a trait of a larger personality. As we move closer to the painting, we are able to distinguish more and more parts that make up the whole picture, yet we are not able to grasp all the silhouettes at once with just two eyes. Therefore we generalize and look at the picture as a whole to grasp the interaction and the abstraction of all elements, but there are as many perspectives as there are Silhouettes.

The Eclectic, oil on canvas, 100*100 cm, 2016
The Eclectic is an urban phenomena. This mask is certainly not looking to be definite, but rather a translucent blend-in. Whether it is an enchanted mimicry of the multitude of colors around it or an attempt at anonymity – it remains unique and finds the true self through losing own characteristics, adapting and transforming into a self of other’s colors.

Yellow Man, Oil on canvas, 100*100 cm, 2016
The Yellow Man is the mask of conscious sacrifice. On a dark, warm background there’s a female figure laying on her back – whether she’s dead or alive is not for me to judge, but it’s the privilege and responsibility of the eye of the beholder. A thick, black, cornered line crosses the left side of this painting. A yellow masks is in the forefront – the mask of the one that sacrificed in order to progress. To describe this painting in a way – a song may come to mind that Nick Cave wrote for Kylie Minogue – “Where The Wild Roses Grow”. But maybe this painting is more prosaic.

Mr. Pink, oil on canvas, 100*100 cm, 2016
He is just Mr. Pink – not more, not less – he is what he is. He is not sure, why he is Mr. Pink and not White, Black or Blue, but he couldn’t care less. He is in peace with himself. He embraced his vulnerability of being different and self-acceptance turned into his greatest strength opening new doors everywhere he went. The first step to his greatness is self-acceptance.

Gold, oil on canvas, 100*100 cm, 2016
This mask is the quintessence of materialistic obsession and pursuit of riches at any cost. It focuses on exclusively material benefit leaving all else without emphasis. The stark contrast is provided by a vivid golden color half vs. the pure black half underlined by the grey-fading gradient background mirroring the relationship between a pure materialism vs. disregard for other values. The ideological ingredients of this artwork are factual and not judgmental. Neither “good” nor “bad” are attributes and it leaves the question of “who are you going to be today?” open at any time, yet it strives to make the viewer consider the question of balance in context of materialistic motivation.

RGB Pixel, triptych, oil on canvas, 290*190 cm, 2016
A large triptych that is no more than a pixel seemed just right. More than that – I needed it. The first layers of paint outlined an eye that spans all three canvasses, which is not any less symbolical than the vertical consideration of the same outline. These symbols together create the most fertile conditions for other ideas to arise.

Each brushstroke became a life in itself. These lives all affect each other on canvas, so do they influence each other in real life. Each “life” in this painting has a ripple effect that either goes through hundreds of other strokes or simply fades to silence in a shorter sequence.

An ode to multiplicity of meanings. The duality of what we consider “real” and what we consider “possible” in the most impossible of our dreams are those two masks. The two big masks are our prisms, our eyes. They extend over canvasses – same as our perception of reality extends over the picture that we see at any given moment.

Perfection is a flaw. A unitary piece it is – made of two masks on three canvasses. The three prevailing colors on three canvasses are quite large, but in a way they are not more than just one RGB pixel. The two masks look at us just like the two eyes that look back at them. Are even mathematical truths fallible? Is two equal one equal three: 3=2=1?

If “God” wore a mask – this would be it.

Is this painting even complete? Or is it the thoughts that it provokes that add to it? Well, I keep on discovering it anew…

The Tuesday Guy, oil on canvas, 90*80 cm, 2015
On a beautiful Tuesday I was on an airplane above Amsterdam as it was passing though clouds. Yet, these clouds were quite amazing – two even, straight, well defined layers separated by a few hundred yards of blue skyline – as if they were painted. Next Tuesday this transformed into the idea of a new look at balance – a Yin & Yang of a kind. The Tuesday Guy was born. So solid, yet transparent. So dark, yet letting through all the brightness. So new, yet looking like he’s aging. A character of his own.