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The contemporary relevance of split portraiture: rereading Marlene Dumas and Francis Bacon

Chau, H. Y. (2019) The contemporary relevance of split portraiture: rereading Marlene Dumas and Francis Bacon. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00088721


This thesis starts from the premise that I consider there to be an increase in split portraiture, and that this is because it speaks to certain conditions in modern and contemporary art. ‘Split portraiture’ is a term I use throughout and it means an artwork created on more than one surface; the work could be on panels, screens or any other surfaces with its specificity. My objectives are to investigate the specificity of this particular type of art practice, to discuss modern and contemporary subjects revealed in it, and to study the change in identification and in the way aggressiveness is perceived in the light of Lacanian discourse. I identify the specificity of split portraits including the discontinuity, split, the multiplication of certain elements and the repetition in the creation process. I also argue that vacillation, emptiness, the split, and the traumatic are present in contemporary subjectivity. In addition, I find an important element in my practice -- aggressiveness -- is concealed in the single-panel portraits whereas it manifests in split portraits. The contribution of this thesis is four-fold. First, this thesis addresses the specificity of the split portrait which has been extensively discussed in the literature. Secondly, this thesis is among the first to enrich the understanding of split portraiture related to art practice in the light of Lacanian discourse. Thirdly, it reveals the contemporary subjectivity through the discussion of the instances of split portraiture. Finally, by using the new term ‘split portraiture’, I discover a new way to rethink about portraiture and reread the works of Marlene Dumas and Francis Bacon.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Garfield, R.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Arts and Communication Design
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art
ID Code:88721


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