Many painters paint self-portraits. It is the least used subject in my work and the three portraits here some of the six direct self portraits I have painted over the years. They vary in terms of technical facility and subject matter in several ways which are not immediately discernible at first glance. They also show me at the age and level of awareness of that time. They show a kind of travel in my thinking, the shifts and reflections in my trajectory, the inevitable movement that characterises our shared humanity.
In the first painting, I have set myself against the skyline of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, with its post Ottoman conquest additions of minarets, casts a turquoise silhouette against the setting sun. I am examining an object, which is one of the few things I have inherited from my grandparents. Istanbul is where my Greek father was born and a place, he left with nothing, as an orphan at the age of 11. ‘The Pestle’ is being examined closely and the backdrop emerges as a dream, a figment. It is an object that has connotations of domesticity but is also heavy and requires a form of physical endeavour, an almost violent act, to crush the spices and release the aroma and the taste. I like the duality of these thoughts, the beautiful and the violent. They capture my fascination of a place I have never seen which I have come to think of as both beautiful and dangerous.
In the second self portrait ‘Examine’ an older version of me in a drab interior, reflects on his life. The jug is plain and although functional, it offers little in the form of decoration or colour. The examination attempts to find the beauty in this functional object. It is a metaphor for trying to find the beauty in a life often shaped by duty and demands which leave little for us. It was painted at a time when I was looking to find meaning, a time when I was thinking about my other life in Crete and the little house my wife and I have created there. It is a painting about searching for answers, nostalgia, and displacement.
The third painting ‘Politis’ (Citizen) is the most recent. Painted in strong artificial light with the printed text of one of my favourite books behind me in the background, it remains ‘unfinished’ in appearance. Here I see myself as a work in progress, a man who is a combination of things. The intersectionality of my Greek and my British Identity, the questioning but calm stare, the attempt to portray the imperfection and lack of symmetry, somehow feel reassuring. There is no attempt to be someone else, no attempt to beautify, just a simple self-acceptance.