Zonder titel

© Dries Van den Brande

Julien Meert's untitled self-portrait is part of an ongoing series that began in 2014. The twenty or so portraits are divided into three sub-groups and characterized by the repetition of the artist's face in close-up against a blue background. Between seduction and repulsion, his portrait unfolds from canvas to canvas on large vertical formats with identical dimensions (220 x 170 cm).

Through repetition the specificity of each face–always reproduced from a close-up selfie– gradually fades away, leaving only a motif. A typical face painted on a slightly shaded background. Inexpressive and hypnotic, the empty, dilated eyes are piercing, while the mouth remains closed. Enlarged to occupy the entire surface of the canvas, his face is at once very present, even intimidating, and at the same time floating, seemingly disembodied.

This iconic series is representative of the artist's work. However, Meert didn't originally intend to make a self-portrait. He just took a photo of his head to paint a correctly proportioned face. When he saw the result, he realized that something of his feverish psychological state at the time pierced through. It's less a self-portrait than the pictorial translation of a certain existential malaise. He then developed it into a series, each time setting himself a new formal challenge. The exercise allows him to distance himself from his own image, and his face is reduced to an ordinary motif.