Mark Wallinger


Since 2007 Mark Wallinger has been working on his ongoing series of Self Portraits. These portraits are configurations of the letter ‘I’, which appear in black paint on white canvas.  The ‘I’, a signifier for the self, is thus repetitively portrayed by Wallinger in various sizes and fonts.  Indeed the essence of these Self Portraits does not draw on depiction of the self in the traditional sense, but can instead be regarded as a sublime expression of the Self.  While this non exclusive and somewhat utopian creation of the self is achieved, the Self Portraits paradoxically allude to a witty and absurd idea, whereby the large or small ‘I’ can be equated to either a big or small ego.  With these works Wallinger is building on a concept, in which he aims to create a universal representation of the self, through a rejection of the object based image.  This notion was initially implemented with utmost defiance by Kasimir Malevich and subsequently favored by the Russian Constructivists.  While this may be true for Wallinger’s Self Portraits, he does not wholeheartedly efface individuality since each ‘I’ possesses its own subtly intrinsic form.  Wallinger breaks away from the traditional inherent nature of the self portrait, in which figuration, usually defined through the use of color and form, has been refuted.  Thus the Self Portraits achieve their own intrinsic meaning, lying above and beyond formal qualities for self expression.  One can understand the letter ‘I’ implemented by Wallinger, as a two fold nuance. Foremost the letter ‘I’ represents an idea of the Self, or ego.  Subsequently the formal qualities of the letter ‘I’, in the Times New Roman font and vertical form, can be loosely alluded to the standing human form in its symmetry and singularity. 

Installation Views

  • Mark Wallinger, exhibition view at carlier | gebauer, 2014

  • Mark Wallinger, exhibition view at carlier | gebauer, 2014

  • Mark Wallinger, Sleeper, 2004