Oil on canvas
1065 x 605mm (image); 1090 x 630mm (framed)
In My Studio was painted fifty years after another work by Jacqueline Fahey in the Fletcher Trust Collection, Last Summer. Both works depict brimming interiors. Last Summer shows Fahey’s daughter and late husband seated at a table, while In My Studio centres on a red velvet chair that recalls papal thrones in paintings by Raphael and Diego Velázquez. The chair is empty, but the work includes a small and forceful image of Fahey. She paints, wearing blue latex gloves that keep her hands clean and faintly evoke the COVID-19 pandemic. The likeness takes the form of a reflection. Two mirrors in the work add extraordinary spatial complexity, revealing multiple aspects of Fahey’s studio and its contents, as well as her front garden, seen through windows. The use of reflections calls to mind art historical antecedents, such as Velázquez’s Las Meninas, which famously shows the Spanish king and queen in a mirror and features the painter’s commanding self-portrait, and Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait.
The figure of Fahey within In My Studio ties into her long-standing interest in painting herself, an act of self-scrutiny and self-possession. A further point of special interest is the inclusion in the painting of another canvas by the artist, Emere Watching Protestors (2016), which refers to social inequality. Fahey will occasionally reproduce a work within a work, testifying to what is in her studio and sneaking additional visual texture into the picture at hand. Here, the older painting adds a subtle political dimension and brings the exterior of Fahey’s house, which it shows, into the new work. Fahey has long lived in the Tāmaki Makaurau suburb of Grey Lynn, and In My Studio quietly acknowledges the feeling of the neighbourhood, which was once associated with Moana (Pacific) families, as well as with artists. A swathe of black fabric decorated with pink hibiscus flowers (perhaps a bean bag?) features prominently. Today, Grey Lynn tends to be associated with monied people and prissy houses, quite unlike Fahey’s.
Gathered Voices: Highlights from the Fletcher Trust Collection, New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 15 September to 11 December 2022 (toured)
Defences Against the Void, Gow Langsford Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau, 21 April to 15 May 2021
Fletcher Trust Collection, purchased from Gow Langsford Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau, May 2021