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Bruce Armstrong painted a couple of portraits recently, which didn’t end up anywhere near where he wanted to go with them. And so he decided to paint a self portrait in order to go back to basics and fix things up.
Painting a self portrait, he finds “confronting and strange. What’s more you are seeing yourself in reverse, and from twice the distance.” He started off working from photographs but says: “it went all cock-eyed. I find it impossible to work with photographs, there’s not nearly enough information.” Then he tried using two mirrors because he wanted a three-quarter profile, but that didn’t work either. In the end he set up one mirror in such a way that all he had to do was move his eyes in order to see himself.
As for the bird, Armstrong says that whilst he is not a keen birdwatcher, he really enjoys looking at them and that several of his recent sculptures have been of birds. “When we were in Europe a few years ago we went to Saint Sebastian in Spain. We pulled into a hotel where the guy who ran it looked a lot like me but more like a European prince. He did falconry and took us out with him so I had this image of myself as a falconer. I haven’t actually done it but I love the idea of it and a self portrait is an idealisation of yourself.”
Since Armstrong is mostly a sculptor, he says he is not overly good with colour yet and quickly “tends towards vulgarity.” He therefore decided to restrict his colour palette until he feels he has more control over it.
Born in Melbourne in 1957, Armstrong studied painting and then sculpture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). He has been producing and exhibiting sculptures and works on paper for 25 years in Melbourne and occasionally in Sydney and overseas. His work is represented in all the State galleries as well as the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra