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Why Wy?


Artistic origins of The Principality of Wy

Vanity , vanity, All is vanity.

It is a question for reflection

I have been drawing since I was a child.  I didn’t know that what I was doing was drawing. It was just something I did.  Most artists start that way.  Here is a pencil self portrait made when I was about 16.

Why Wy? you ask?   The artistic “Principality of Wy” commenced with a long look in a cracked shaving mirror in 1959.  A tiny painting of a slender 17 year old,( illustrated below), was the result, rendered on a ceder panel.  It was painted in my second last last year at Sydney Grammar School.  The following year, influenced I suppose by the self portraits of Rembrandt,  I dressed up as “ The Prince” and experimented, battling with the oil paint, to make this picture work.   I lived then, as I do now, by Wy ar gine Point, in Sydney Harbour which was my playground as a child.

This was the first major ”Wy” painting to be entitled “The Prince of Wy”  and was completed in 1960.  A year later I started at the Julian Ashton Art School as a night student of the great art teacher, Henry Cornwallis  Gibbons.

The self portrait has many guises , whether it is on the majestic scale of Shakespeare’s complex autobiographical character “Prospero” in “The Tempest” or Rembrandt’s theatrical tableau’s involving himself decked in elaborate costumes as an eastern potentate or a Dutch/Greek God – or an equivalent in music:  Beethoven’s passionate opera “Fidelio”.

It is the cry for help of Vincent Van Gogh. Michelangelo carved himself as a slave emeging from the marble. Leonardo Da Vinci drew himself as inscrutable, as the bearded sage. In Australia George Washington Lambert saw himself as a very superior gentleman with not a trace of humour whereas William Dobell. an equally fine draughtsman showed himself disarmingly whimsical and casual.

Prince of Wy aged eighteen in 1960

Prince of Wy aged eighteen in 1960

In my grandfather’s library was an art book illustrating the work of Anthony Van Dyck.  I remember being impressed, when I was very young, by the palpable energy reflected in the self portraits of the highly strung  Dutch Master.

The artist is grounded by his self portrait.   This fine fellow in front of you will never let you down.   He understands.  But who is this strange person in the mirror today?   Is it me?   Have we been introduced?   Who is “me” anyhow?   This “me” changes all the time.   Given fluency of technique in any one of the arts and the time to indulge in a little soul searching, this is a lifelong journey of surprises that any creative spirit can make.

It is not a good idea to try to go back to rework on a old self portrait.  The subject is no longer there.  You have  grown and changed.   See – this face is making expressions.  A smile a frown – but who is it there?   It is a riddle that is only explained by doing it.

It would be wrong to tell the artist creating a self portrait that he is -“infatuated with himself”,  The reality is that, “This time, it is the real thing”

My own early attempts at the genre were variously self entertainment or soul searching.   Costume or catharsis, sometimes both.  The model has left or didn’t arrive.  It may be five finger exercises,  waiting for the arrival of the portrait sitter.  A dawdling brush, a nearby mirror.

It might have been the effect of love  –  Has anyone else ever felt like this?

A painting is like a worm hole in space/time. Scientists have postulated that this is the way the time traveller may enter another time scale.  Every painting is a worm hole for the artist who created it, especially the self portrait.

Ah yes!   You are entering this other painting from your youth now and what is it that you were thinking?.   You called it – “The Sorrows of Young Werther” from a poem by Goethe.    The picture says it all.

Enough about self portraits.  The actor, Charles Laughton portrays Rembrandt in a  black and white motion picture portraying the life of the Dutch Master.  In the last scene Laughton, who has been entertained by one of his flamboyant students who has been showing off to some pretty girls, turns to the camera and adopts a pose reminiscent of his late self portraits. He looks quizzically  into the lens as the final scene closes and says, “Ah,  Vanity, Vanity ………  All is Vanity”.



The Serene half century in 2010


The Serene half century in 2010

The iconic 1960 self portrait by Paul as The Prince of Wy is the first creation in the continuing journey of The Principality of Wy and reflects a unique provenance in Micro national History in Australia.

The Artists’ Principality is celebrating, in 2010, its fiftieth year.

Members of The Court of Wy and The Serene Family have great pride in Formally Commemorating this Anniversary.

The Prince modestly accepted the Serene Toast and thanked all those present and around the world who believe that both courage and humour were the way forward and that all disputes between nations large and small should be solved with art competitions.   Equerry

Ex Municipalis Vincit