Project 10 : Self-Portrait

Lenkiewicz produced Self-Portrait, Section Ten of the Relationship Series, at the end of 1978, an ironic look at the relationship between the artist and his own self.

I wondered what it would be like just to paint myself; to paint what I saw in the mirror repetitively. Well, within half a sitting I became aware that all I was doing was painting a picture of a mirror; there just happened to be something there reflected in the mirror.

Lenkiewicz quoted Nietzsche’s aphorism about the problem of knowledge of the thing-in-itself, seeing in it an interesting parallel to his thesis that “the ‘other’ can by physiological necessity … only ever be a fragmented mirror”:

The two directions. – When we try to examine the mirror in itself we eventually detect nothing but the things reflected in it. When we wish to grasp the things reflected, we touch nothing but the mirror. This is the general history of knowledge. (Daybreak, Book 4, 243)

However, the centrepiece of the show was the painting The Dead Painter Surrounded by his Children and Companions, “a parody of the death of his own mother and a drawing by André Slom of Courbet on his deathbed”. An extensive book of notes and illustrations relating to its overarching theme – Et in Arcadia ego (I, Death, am in Arcadia also) – was also produced.

... Dead but lit at the ending by candles from my orbit. Each their own sun, awaiting their extinguished moment... child-philosophers stare in passionless silence at my passing.

There is presently little documentation which survives for this Project - no list of works has emerged, for instance. However, in 1988 the artist produced a remarkable set of notes for an exhibition of works preliminary to Project 18, which contains a significant essay on the theme of self-portraits much of which is possibly contemporaneous with Project 10. This has been included as a PDF (click on Exhibition Booklet).

  • Robert and Eliza outside the Barbican Studio in 1979.

    Robert and Eliza outside the Barbican Studio in 1979.


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