Plastic Portrait (1990)

Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 175 x 135

Private collection, Melbourne

A key example of the ‘mask’ idea underlying Arkley’s ‘Head Show’ (for details, see main entry on the 1990 exhibition). The authors of Spray suggest a ‘sense of alienation filtered through a Pop psychology’ in this and other works in the show.

The principal sources used for this image were a magazine illustration modified by the artist, dated 1989 (reproduced in Spray 101), and an Elizabeth Taylor ‘celebrity mask’ from a book in Arkley’s studio library (photo reproduced under 1990 exh.entry). A second copy of the Elizabeth Taylor mask, annotated by Arkley ‘Must keep Ref for Headshow 1990’ and signed and dated 1990, is preserved separately in Arkley’s archive (SLV MS 14217/1/791: see reproduction in Fitzpatrick & Lynn 2015, p.19).


  • Acquired directly from Tolarno 1990


  • HA Tolarno 10/90 (‘The Head Show’), cat.63
  • HA retrospective 2006-7 (Melbourne only)


  • Vogue Living, June/July 1993, 71-72 (showing the work in its domestic setting)
  • Spray 101 (inc.ill.)
  • Carnival 177 (noting the main source)
  • Smith 2006: 17 (ill.)