Do you have an alter ego, another personality, an imaginary friend, someone in your writing or painting that you impart something of your character to give them life?
Although the term goes back 2000 years to Rome and the writings of Cicero who described an alter ego as a trusted friend, there are many examples throughout history, especially in the field of literature and the arts from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ to the Invisible Man, Spiderman, Superman and the ‘Incredible Hulk. Some artists have included themselves in their paintings and some public figures may reveal two personalities – a public one and a private one, while Freud’s work in psychoanalysis explored the two sides of a person – the conscious and the unconscious. Some successful people have not only been inspired by a hero or heroes in their field but immersed themselves in their hero’s character as a way of giving them strength while in the modern digital world we have avatars to project our personality onto.
The alter egos of seven artists from England, Ireland, Germany the USA, Poland, Montenegro, and Bahrain – Nicasio Fernandez, Shadi Al-Atallah, Oh De Laval, Tadija Janicic, Philip Gerald, Danny Gretscher and Domic Dispirito are safely locked behind the closed doors of Unit London, as with all other galleries in London, though if you dare you may be able to arrange to visit them soon.
Alongside, and entirely different is the work of the Australian Michael Staniak who describes himself as a ‘post-internet artist’, with work that crosses the boundaries between the digital world and the real world. Perhaps his work is the digital world’s alter ego, as he seeks to make sense of, and bring order to, the myriad of digital information that bombards us?
From a distance, his work – reflected in the highly polished concrete gallery floor – looks bold and ordered, with graduating colours and patterns, some of which are quite Art Deco in character, but look closely and you see that beneath the surface of the geometry are contrasting rich natural textures, reminiscent of the barren landscapes in places such as Arizona or seen in photographs of the surface of other planets in our solar system, as Staniak seeks to overlay a structure of the apparent chaos. I wonder what, as an artist, he would make of the current coronavirus epidemic and how to bring order to the chaos and conflicting information that surrounds it.