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Dr. Nicholas David Angerame | independent curator | 2014

Painting the Mirror


The mirror is a recurring element in the history of art. A case in point is offered by Parmigianino, one of the great painters of Italian Mannerism and considered by the art historian Giorgio Vasari to be the spiritual and stylistic heir to Raphael. Parmigianino went to Rome in 1524, seeking patronage from the papal court. For the occasion he painted his famous Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which is preserved at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. In this self-portrait, the young Emilian painter, who died in 1540 without nothing but a legacy of sublime work, shows his skill by portraying himself in a distorting mirror.

The myth of Narcissus brings up the importance of the reflected image, wherein the handsome young hunter perishes, captivated by his reflection in a pool. The diaries of explorers and anthropologists are littered with reports of the value indigenous and uncontacted tribes place on small pieces of mirrors, trading food and manufactured goods for these foreign artefacts. In his Treatise on Painting , Leonardo da Vinci gives the mirror a place of honour, most notably in the famous chapter entitled How the Mirror is the Master of Painters. In it, Leonardo asserts that ‘Above all, the mirror is like the master of painting, because [the image] on the surface of the mirror maintains many similarities to paintings."

In the work of Dénesh Ghyczy, the mirror becomes a distorting lens through which the subject is both crushed and multiplied. The birth of the post-modern subject occurs as follows: first there is the fragmentation of modern and rational, then, as a result of its break-up and its dispersion, it gives gives rise to today's society full of multiple identities linked within each of us . In this new awareness of the multiplicity of our identities and our roles, Ghyczy seems to suggest that the ‘univocal’ portrait, to which we have become so accustomed through the history of painting, has now become ‘impossible’. The new ‘I’ needs multiple points of view and angles in order to be seen and understood in its ‘totality’.

Other series of paintings echo thematically and spiritually what Ghyczy’s work tries to visualize. The subject engages in a dialogue with itself, with it's own aura. While it's inwardness appears and resounds we, as external viewers, are gripped by a fear and a hope. There is more to the world than the visible, the power of these paintings is to show us this truth, going beyond the actual perception to reach deeper dimensions.

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