Shield of Achilles I (2008)

Oil on canvas
220 cm in diameter

Mark Alexander has long been fascinated by what he calls ‘the Primitive Gaze’ – seemingly blank and unaffected, such as those seen on the statues of Easter Island, Minoan masks, and the artist’s face in Warhol’s late self-portrait.

Marking Alexander’s return to Berlin since he lived and worked there in the 1990s, the exhibition at Haunch of Venison Berlin includes a major new series of paintings entitled The Shield of Achilles. Based on an image of the artist as a child, these large-scale paintings screen-printed in oil bring about a new level of Warholian impersonality. Alexander seeks to make images that are as much receptacles for the viewer as they are expressions of the artist – images that cut through the unfathomable complexity and information overload of contemporary society.

At the heart of the exhibition is the painting, The Golden Shield, recalling Homer’s Shield of Achilles, based on an early motif seen in an engraving of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The work is again a self-portrait of the artist painted in the centre of a golden sun god, realised with a long-sought after goal of achieving a painting of ‘pure gold’, the affect of which is to heighten the artist’s relentless gaze.

Alexander’s show also includes a series of seven works he calls Via Negativa, a title taken from a medieval mystical tradition which found darkness singularly illuminating. These works develop themes first undertaken in the well known Blacker Gachet series – a body of paintings from which all the colour was drained from the Van Gogh portrait of the French physician, Paul Gachet. In Via Negativa, the opulent sunflowers so beloved by Van Gogh have been re-worked into a series of ‘brutal bouquets’ each bloom blackened and shrivelled, as if some centre to a dying star.

Finally, the exhibition includes an installation of Alexander’s first sculptures, large works in steel based on ancient Minoan design. These rusted forms resemble abandoned booster bearings from a rocket or the casing of a great cosmic lens, and seem to languish as mysteriously as Iron Age burial mounds.


installation view Berlin 2009

Press Release (German)


MEDIA: Oil on canvas

SIZE: 220 cm (86.68 inches) in diameter PROVENANCE: Private Collection


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