Self Portrait (1996) [W/P]

Synthetic polymer paint on paper, 76 x 56

With Lauraine Diggins, Melbourne

This intense work – distinguished by the figure’s distinctive green hair, bright blue eyes, brown eyebrows and pale yellow beard – is one of several mid 1990s works on paper based on the same Byzantine icon source, first adapted by Arkley for Pittoresque (1984) [W/P] and Untitled [Icon #2] 1984 [W/P], and then for Black and White Icon (1995) [W/P]. In the first edition of Arkley Works (June 2010), I mistakenly assumed that the present work was identical to the example auctioned by Deutscher-Menzies on 10 August 1998, now catalogued separately here as Untitled [‘Head’] (1996?) [W/P]. Another closely similar variant, dated 1997, has also come to light recently: see The Icon Head 1997 [W/P].

The present work, first shown in Arkley’s solo show at the Bellas Gallery, Brisbane, in March 1996 (Arkley archive photo), was auctioned by Christie’s, Sydney, in August 1998. Between 2008 and 2011, it was exhibited several times at the Lauraine Diggins Gallery in Melbourne, where it was still listed as in stock in May 2012 (see provenance and exhibition details below).

Arkley’s other Byzantine icon image, developed in several variants, notably Icon Head (1990) (also the basis for Icon Head 1996 [W/P], another work on paper shown in the March 1996 Bellas exhibition), is usually emphasized in relation to Arkley’s self-image (see e.g. my analysis in Carnival p.182, citing earlier remarks). However, his specific choice of the title “Self Portrait” for the present work clearly proves that this vivid, fanatical prophet figure interested him particularly as a kind of mirror of himself. His recurrent repetition of the image during the 1980s and 90s (examples noted above) seems suggestive.


  • Bellas Gallery, Brisbane ( Christie’s, Aug.1998)
  • Private collection, Brisbane (again, as noted by Christie’s)
  • auctioned by Christie’s, Sydney, 17-18 Aug.1998, lot 1421, as ‘Self-Portrait’, n.d., 76 x 56 (ill.; previous provenance noted as above; est. $2-3,000; sold for $1900 plus buyer’s premium)
  • with Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, N.Caulfield, Melbourne, since at least March 2008: see gallery website: (last accessed May 2012; including exhibition details as listed below)


  • HA Bellas 3/96, cat.1 (details as above); priced at $,2000
  • “Director’s Choice,” Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, N.Caulfield, Melbourne, 12 March-12 April 2008 (ill. and details as above: gallery website as noted above)
  • “Resale Royalty and the Collector,” Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, 11 Aug.-18 Sept. 2010 (details as above: gallery website)
  • “From a Scrap of Paper: Drawing, Watercolour, Paint, Print, Photography,” Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, 15 Nov.-16 Dec.2011 (same details: gallery website)