Turk (b. 1968) first appeared on the London art scene after he was famously denied his MA certificate from the Royal College of Art for presenting as his degree show an English Heritage-style blue plaque bearing the inscription ‘Borough of Kensington / Gavin Turk / Sculptor / Worked here 1989 & 1991’. Since then Turk has made a number of photographic and sculptural self-portraits, reinventing himself each time in a variety of disguises.
In Camouflage (Self-Portrait) from 1998, Turk uses a common full face composition but, rather than trying to ‘reveal’ his appearance, he covers his face with patches of cosmetic mudpack to mimic army camouflage. This is a clever subversion of the self portrait genre. Set against a black background, his eyes stare intently into the camera lens. Like much of Turk’s work, this piece contains a number of cultural references; firstly to Marlon Brando’s sinister portrayal of Mr. Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now, and then to the artist Andy Warhol’s (1928-87) self-portraits that adopted a camouflage of brighter, more vivid colours.
In mimicking cultural references, Turk questions the identity of a work of art and its authorship.