For more than a decade, Euan Macleod’s Self Portrait/Head Like a Hole was a silent participant in the boardroom meetings at the UTS School of Business, after it was acquired not long after it was awarded the Archibald Prize for portraiture.
A landscape with water provides the scene, but filling the canvas are two faces – the larger looking directly at the viewer. The second head is in profile and is gazing into the eye of the first (as though peering into a keyhole), which in turn is the head of a third figure which is stepping out of the water. Two other figures complete the painting: one swimming with dolphins, the other suspended upside down.
Although undoubtedly a portrait, it is far from conventional portraiture. Elements of Macleod’s other paintings surround and intersect with his representation of himself, exploring an unsettling relationship between an artist’s work and his own self-image.
It is no surprise that in 2011 Self Portrait/Head Like a Hole was included in a major survey exhibition and catalogue of paintings by Macleod dating between 1991 and 1999, titled Surface Tension. The exhibition toured to six regional galleries and attracted nearly 26,000 visitors.
After touring for more than 12 months, the self portrait returned home where it remains one of the most loved highlights of the collection.
Assistant Curator (Collection)
This article first appeared in U magazine, March 2012