An alter ego is understood to be an alternative self, a being that’s distinct from a person’s normal or unadulterated personality. The first use of the term is credited to Cicero in 1st-century Rome; the eminent statesman-come-philosopher described it as “a second self, a trusted friend.” Although this idea of companionship is important, when considering the Alter Ego group show, it is the term’s function within the realm of literary theory that is most pertinent. In literary theory, when considering fiction or other narrative forms, the alter ego describes a key character in a story who is perceived to be intentionally representative of the work’s creator, by virtue of oblique similarities. The literary alter ego emulates the author’s behaviour, speech and mental landscape, becoming an effective mouthpiece for the author’s ideas. As so often happens with literature and painting, this device overlaps.
Alter Ego is a group show featuring the work of Oh de Laval, Philip Gerald, Shadi Al-Atallah, Tadija Janicic, Dominic Dispirito, Nicasio Fernandez and Danny Gretscher. It examines at how an exciting contingent of emerging painters continually feature artistic alter egos in their work. The use of these secondary characters allows artists to occupy the worlds they create, they are no longer simply the detached creator but rather an inhabitant, an immutable presence within the fictive world. This practice allows different works to interplay, narratives develop and unfold over multiple pieces, all anchored around a central recurring character, much like a tv series. The alter egos are then able to deliver the artist’s vision with a kind of clarity and consistency that the individual would find impossible; the character can reach more people and gain a level of ubiquity that the artist often can not.