Using the face as a means to investigate the complexities of identity and anxiety, a Fayum mask encapsulates considerations about duality and ambiguity. Fayum portrait covers the face of a mummified body with the purpose of informing about the identity of the deceased, enabling admission in the afterlife. Work examines ways of evaluating passage of time and through an articulate process of metamorphosis, it combines the figurative with the abstract and expression with minimalism.
On the one side the imprint of face and mouth’s interior provide evidence about the person in contact with the material, but since this action produces a negative impression the exact identity remains unrecognisable. On the other side, wood’s smooth surface is polished with wax as a reference to the encaustic technique employed traditionally in Fayum portrait painting, in order to preserve characteristics of the represented. Here however, wax seals an unpainted surface suggestive of an absent identity. Destruction of the death mask represents an act of revenge against the deceased, since by eliminating its facial features, soul can’t be recognised in the afterlife being unable to find peace. The ovoid shape provides an abstraction of face, whereas wood highlights the organic nature of both materials used and further relates with the human body.
Being separated and inducing an identity dissociation, when viewed from a particular angle an anamorphic illusion takes place. Inversion of the negative imprint recreates an expression of pain and tension captured in the mould. Similar to Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting ‘The Ambassadors’, the sculpture stands as a ‘vanitas’ reminiscent of a memento mori symbolism that is typical in medieval funerary art. Besides seeing such transformation as a display of technical virtuosity, historically this approach refers to the artistic intention of disguising meanings while providing hints of transience and ephemerality.