Double Portraiture and Being A Twin

I have create quite a lot of art about what it means to be a twin, my relationship with her and the affects it has on me as an individual, however I didn’t consider that it may be hard for people to determine whether my art involves my twin or not at the moment. I guess I am so focused on my own emotions and self-expression that I have not really thought about her as an influence on my self-portraiture.

‘Twin portraiture and double portraits are particularly important in African and African diaspora cultures where twins are celebrated as individuals with perfect knowledge of each other and as emissaries with the ability to traverse the physical and spiritual worlds.’ (Donna Gustafson, Susan Sidlauskas).

My identity and trait of my personality all stem from the fact that I am a twin, I would not be the same if I was born without her and subsequently everything about my self relates to it. However, I think I have overcome a lot of my issues that surfaced from the pressures of being a twin and the emotional issues I have had due to competition and over-shadowing, therefore it is isn’t something I feel the need to explore within my work at the moment. It is rewarding to be completely focused on my own self, and my identity only, as a separate entity to molly.



Ideas from the book ‘Striking Resemblance’:

“Portraits are used in personal and private ways and continue to elicit strong feelings that have little to do with the ability of the artist and much to do with the individual portrayed” (Donna Gustafson, Susan Sidlauskas). So what is it that I want an audience to feel? What affects do I want the portrayal to achieve?

How does knowledge of the subject in the portrait affect the perception of the work?

In the book pieces of art are discussed where the subject or the artist is unknown. It has made me think a lot about how the way we look at art really change when we know who it is based on, who the portrait is of, and we can make educated guesses about what the art is trying to achieve.

‘When a biography accompanies a portrait we feel we can see the traits of character in the portrait’ (Donna Gustafson, Susan Sidlauskas).


For the painting above we don’t know the relationship between the two subjects, whether the artist is one of the people represented etc. This contrasts to my own work where it is clear to the audience around me that it is me in the paintings and I am the focus of the work. However, it was brought up in my Gap Crit that the small part of the audience that were aware that I am a twin viewed the multiple portrait painting differently….

How the relationship of the audience members to me affect how they see my work:

Someone pointed out that if the audience was aware I am a twin then it is not completely clear whether the paintings involved my identical twin, myself, or a combination of the both. Without this knowledge, it would be definite that the portraits were in fact self-portraits. I’m not sure if I actually like the idea of the audience being unsure of what they are looking at or whether I want it to be obvious?

As I am trying to achieve complete exposure of myself I think I want it to be evident what I am representing in my work.


Involving Mirrors Within Current Work?

In the gap crit I added one of my mirror pieces I made last year with illegible text written on it into the display – placing it on the easel holding my new painting so it partially covers it. I did this last minute to just give an idea of using mirrors, but it really stirred up some interesting feedback from the audience.

Most of the group said the positioning of the mirror took away from the painting, distracted from it and they (correctly) thought it wasn’t made to be with the painting. However, a few took from it the aspect of their reflection in the mirror whilst looking at the piece: they took from it ‘how do we affect grace?’, ‘how do our actions impact her view on herself?’ and an overall representation of the fact that we all influence each others lives whether we are aware of it or not. The way the audience sees themselves in the mirror also makes them confront themselves; up close and personal self analysis in the way I am doing through my art.

How the work was displayed in 2nd year:

I am really I made a last minute decision to place the mirror there as it really brought up some interesting ideas and in the future, if I have any ideas I am unsure of or are a little out there, I will use the gap crit to get feedback on it.

Gap Crit 12.10.17

I volunteered for our first Gap Crit of 3rd year this week where the class discussed my work without my input and talked about what they got from it. After 10-15 minutes they involved me into the conversation and were able to ask me questions and discover how I felt about their observations.

The work I presented:

I displayed the final painting on the easel I am using for it and this actually gave off a good idea of the ongoing process of my work – how it is about the making of it and journey, that it may never be finished.

The audience and myself all perceived that this shows how learning about ourselves will never be completely finished, that there is no clear decision or representation of our own identity as it is always evolving.

A comparison between the drawings and the paintings

The groups view of them:

The drawings appeared to be made as practices for the paintings. They show me scrutinising over my own face and carefully creating each detail, a very up close and personal analysis; the paintings less anatomical and more emotional.

The drawings came across objective, the paintings emotive- not trying to be realistic or accurate but to represent a tangible physical thing. One person said it felt as if you could touch my face, as if I was really there in the paint – a physical object. I am happy with this reaction from the audience.

What I explained:

The drawings were never a plan for the paintings or in anyway relating to them, they were separate entities exploring myself in a different way. The paintings and drawings should work together to show a wide range of self-analysis and discovery, an ongoing journey. The materials used are not carefully picked out, measured or stressed over, which represents the need to just draw, to get things down onto paper or in paint so I can express myself.


The illegible text on the mirror and in the paintings made the group want to look in closer and showed how I only show the audience what I decide them to see. It provokes the thought ‘Do we ever know the true self?’ ‘Do we really know the subject/artist?’


Why Am I Looking At Self-Portraiture?

I have been really analysing the reasoning behind my current work focusing on myself as the subject. At first I felt it was because I will always have myself available to study, I don’t need anyone to pose for me and I can always come up with new ideas/inspiration. However I think there are much deeper reasons for this choice:

  • I am trying to eliminate self-consciousness and a lack of confidence about myself – both my appearance and my personality.
  • It acts as a platform to represent my personal self-acceptance and the process of trying to learn about myself and the way my mind works.
  • I feel the pieces I make are an extension of myself as a person which gives me so much room to explore lots of aspects of identity – my thoughts, fears and ideas through writing/journalling,  experimenting with portraits – incomplete or finished?, photography, insecurities and mood.
  • I am still trying to learn about who I am and teaching myself to be more honest and brave with the work I make. Some of the feelings I want to express and the things I write really can expose me but I think it is something I need to do for myself. There is so much I need to get out of my head and making it into a physical object can be therapeutic.

Process over Product

In my current work I am focusing more on the development of my self-portraits and the different layers of design, rather than aesthetics and composition of the final product.

Obviously there is thought put into the layout of the features, where I place text and what colours I use, but I have been letting my immediate ideas take control rather than scrutinising over each detail.

The most challenging aspect of this is knowing when to stop, when to leave parts blank or add paint, to leave the sketches of the drawing visible to show the process or to bring out the details. I am trying to give myself time away from the painting I am working on to see it from a different light, or even alternate between two pieces.