Portrait of The Hut Project as Tom Gidley
For our 2008 show 'It's Not Me, It's You' we commissioned then Limoncello artist Tom Gidley to paint a self-portrait. We wanted the process of Tom looking inwards to be the method for us to look outwards, and the result to represent the difference between us. Tom produced 'Self Portrait Without Thinking', a photo-realistic painting that caught him at the moment of taking an image of himself, wide-eyed, frozen, and unreflective. He refused to look inside and dealt only with the surface quality of the image. We were very happy with his retort.
As we couldn't afford to pay Tom the amount specified for his painting, we made a deal - if the painting remained unsold by the end of Zoo Art Fair that year he would take it back. The fair closed and the work was unsold and soon after Tom came to collect the painting, as was his due. The painting had gone back into Tom's ownership, but we were still uncertain as to where the authorship lay in the piece now - was it 'Self-Portrait Without Thinking' by Tom Gidley or was it 'It's Not Me, It's You: Tom Gidley' by The Hut Project, or was it both? We found out the answer when we heard Tom had sold the painting himself to one of his collectors.
So we decided to make a complication. We commissioned a painter friend, who used to work for Limoncello, to make a painting from the image documenting 'It's Not Me, It's You: Tom Gidley'. The result of her efforts, 'Portrait of The Hut Project as Tom Gidley', was displayed in the gallery office as part of 'The Fair Show'. In part, the work re-manifests the destroyed 'It's Not You, It's Me: Tom Gidley', but while the painting fools for a moment, on a little inspection it reveals myriad distinctions between it and the painting it is derived from. Grace, our painter, has rejected the photorealistic surface of Tom's work and rendered the image she worked from as a painting 'proper'. And while Tom's original painting went back inward as it reverted to his authorship, this work has become active through the process of commissioning, its authorship rendered permanently unstable under the hands of three successive artists.