Noel Tovey 2009

Portrait painting of actor Noel Toveyauthor of “Little Black Bastard”. by Victor Gordon     Preparatory pencil sketch for portrait oil painting

Oil on canvas
122 x 183 cm

Winner Bathurst Portrait Prize 2010.

Noel Tovey – actor, dancer, singer, director, choreographer, writer and teacher and author of “Little Black Bastard”

Noel Tovey is a very well known Australian theatrical celebrity. He made his name in the sixties in major West end productions such as Oh Calcutta, the Boy Friend and Anything Goes etcetera

Noel Tovey’s autobiography “The Little Black Bastard” has attracted major interest both locally and internationally.

The composition of my portrait was conceived after consideration of Noel as an ‘elder statesman’ of the theatre and the salient fact that while still theatrically active he is essentially currently concentrating on intimate and very personal introspective concerns.

In a relatively large scale painting I sought to establish an up close tactile surface, a microscopic investigation of Noel’s face. Ideally I hoped to penetrate his actor’s ability to present and control his outer demeanour behind a theatrical mask and convey some of the sense of the intensity of his current personal introspection. I chose a low (staged) view point, cropping the face to the essential landmarks, even angling the head to only permit visual access to only one eye, so as to convey his single (minded) focus. This single eye does not confront the viewer but instead gazes off into the distance somewhat meditatively. By painting in a semi-modernist flat bi-coloured background, I attempted to establish a sense of quietude, an alternative to the intensity of the large scale close-up naturalistic countenance. But unlike the portrait, if seen as a naturalistic horizon, it has an elevated viewpoint. Ideally these two simultaneous viewpoints intensify a metaphoric and visual tension.

Glory be to God for dappled things 2010

Painting Oil on canvas - Glory be to God for dappled things 2010

Oil on canvas
152 x 183 cm

The title of this large scale camouflaged reclining nude is the first line of a Gerard Manly Hopkins poem. In my work, neither the woman nor the aeroplane, are naturally dappled. Only the chameleon, whose changeability is natural, has yet to recognise real impending danger and camouflage or “dapple” himself. The chameleon has particular personal significance for me as a totemic symbol and besides its potential to effectively alter it’s appearance or disappear, it also has a primal erotic function; a dildo reposing in a purpose-built niche. Closer inspection of the composition could reveal more erotic references. The book depicted is the Penguin edition of the “Story of the eye” by George Bataille which is the quintessential erotic novel of the early twentieth century and on its cover is the last art work of Marcel Duchamp also considered to be an erotic masterwork. The pose is appropriated from one of a number of Titian’s Danae. It depicts the mythological fable about how Jupiter seduced Danae by showering her with gold. In my image the gold is replaced with the imminent danger and violence of the dive bombing Nazi Stuka, whose klaxon (screaming silently) still has the power to terrify its intended victim. However, the chameleon-like woman is in no way intimidated, if anything she is somewhat aroused by the impending danger. The salient difference between the original depiction and my image is that whereas (the male) Jupiter essentially sexually violated Danae, my reclining nude is stimulating herself. She is the “mistress of her own domain”. (Seinfeld)