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Digital Award: Self-portrait by Robert Mercer

Self-portrait

Robert Mercer

2023 Digital Award

Proudly supported by
Accenture
About the artwork and artist

Robert Mercer was born in Ireland and immigrated with his family to Melbourne, Australia. His art practice has centred on video, photo-media and installation, the position of contemporary art in post-modern societies, and the relevance of art practices in cross cultural communications.

Research into the role of autobiography in contemporary art has led to exhibitions both nationally and internationally.

Through the process of reshaping and re-evaluating a collection of photographic imagery Robert has attempted to negotiate a place and cultural identity of a diasporic person: a person who has moved between people, cultures and landscapes.

Speaking of his practice Robert states “It is the allegorical nature of reading a text through another that is a central aspect of my art practice.”

The self portrait was taken in the studio and is a hand manipulated polaroid. During the very short development period, the soft film is manipulated and drawn into using various tools, including found objects. It’s then scanned and enlarged digitally for print.

Judge's Notes

Robert Mercer’s self-portrait distinguishes itself in the category. At first glance you think it’s a painting, but there’s something in its ill-definition that invites you to question what it is you are actually looking at.

Working with a mixture of reproductive techniques, he is pushing the use of the medium to create this vast expanse of darkness with the figure of the artist emerging from the corner in colour.

Mercer’s starting point is a polaroid, a self-developing film within a single camera which represented the marriage of technology, art, and instantaneity in the seventies. Mercer has then manipulated the photographic image, introducing other materials and objects as if a montage or assemblage, and then passing that through a series of digital processes to arrive at the final image. This elaboration of these multiple reproductive processes contributes to the visual richness of the work.

Although it is two dimensional, you have a sense of something that goes much deeper, and conceptually the way he’s interrogating a history of technology of representational techniques is extremely interesting. He’s using that approach, and the final resultant work to express a sense of who he is as a person with a diasporic history, coming from Ireland to Australia, suggesting an existential quality.

Suzanne Cotter
Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Chief Judge 2023

"Through the process of reshaping and re-evaluating a collection of photographic imagery Robert has attempted to negotiate a place and cultural identity of a diasporic person."