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The faceless men is a collaborative work between Canberra artists Gary Smith and Frank Thirion. The four-panel work consists of two panels by each artist: one a self-portrait, the other a portrait of his collaborator. The tonally restrained work consciously blends and contrasts two distinct painterly approaches: realism and gestural expressionism.
This collaboration arises from an ongoing 10-year dialogue about artistic practice between the two artists, which began when they shared adjoining studios at the Australian National University School of Art while they were undertaking postgraduate studies in painting.
The portrait is concerned with themes of identity, interrogation and making those who might remain invisible, present. It continues the artistic tradition of self-portraiture through exploring self, other universes using mirrors and role-playing, opening a dialogue with the audience about portraiture and artistic identity. The subject of this work is really the viewer’s response, as viewers are forced to reflect on themselves by men in sunglasses who are not returning their gaze.
Smith was born in Geelong and holds a Master of Philosophy in painting from the Australian National University. His exhibitions include Democracy in 2011 and Grand design in 2011. He was a finalist in the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, Adelaide in 2009. He is a visiting fellow for ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences and is the exhibition coordinator for the Canberra Museum and Gallery ACT.
Thirion was born in Paris, France and holds a PhD in painting from the Australian National University. His awards include the Canberra Critics’ Circle Award for Visual Arts in 2009, the Canberra Art Prize in 2002, and the ANU Tillyard Prize in 1999. His exhibitions include Democracy (with Smith) at ANU in 2011 and Constellation at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space in 2008. He is a four-time finalist in the Wynne Prize. He is a seasonal lecture at the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.
The work of both is held in major private collections in Australia and overseas. They are currently collaborating on an exhibition for late this year titled We come in peace shoot to kill.