The Painted Double by Shanti Shea An

Shanti Shea An, 'Split,' 2022. Oil on canvas, 120 x 140cm. Photo: Brenton McGeachie

Despite painting’s capacity to present images before our eyes, the medium has always been haunted by absence. The works in The Painted Double address this duality through the formal qualities of mirroring, symmetry, and folding. These paintings invite the viewer to see two things at once—a surface to be looked at and a narrative to be opened. Shanti Shea An’s project attends to this complex sense of twofoldness by interrogating how painted images place us at a threshold between looking and reading.

The Painted Double first developed out of my interest in the relationship between painting and textual experience. I had sensed that there was a kind of rustling, or touching, between what a painting can say to a viewer and what it is able to show. As a painter, I often asked myself: how does a painting differ from a text? The philosopher Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez suggests that painting is a language because it transfigures what it shows, allowing for a departure from ordinary experience. However, as this project reveals, there is always a trace of what has been transformed. This process of seeing two things at once—of seeing double—involves putting things into pictures and trying, but not always succeeding, to put them into words.

Shanti Shea An is an artist who lives and works on Gadigal Country, Sydney. She holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (First Class Honours) from the ANU School of Art & Design and in 2019 graduated with a Master of Art History and Curatorial Studies (Advanced), with a thesis on architectural and pictorial thresholds in seventeenth-century Dutch painting. She has held solo exhibitions nationally and has participated in group exhibitions in Australia, China and France.

Shanti is a Higher Degree by Research Candidate, completing her Doctor of Philosophy.

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