Roman Trumpe loeil
For the digital collages in this 2018 series, Roman Trumpe–l’oeil, I fuse images of Julius Cesar and his cohorts, as depicted in Ancient Roman sculpture, with the faces of current US political figures. In this series, several acts of illusion—those of history, power, and the means of artistic representation—dramatically unravel.
In the 1930s, Ilse Schneider-Lengyel traveled Europe photographing sculptural artworks from the First to Third centuries. I discovered her intimately-composed photographs in an elegant tome called Roman Portraits. The bookplates, published in 1940 by Phaidon Press, are richly printed photogravures and beautiful to behold. To Lengyel's close-ups of powerful personages of the Roman Empire, I have digitally implanted the facial features of figures circling the Trump presidency such as, Mike Pence, Vladimir Putin, Kellyanne Conway, and Michael Cohen.
For this series, I adapt a version of the artistic effect that was coined in the Baroque period as trompe l'oeil, or, trick-of-the-eye. Applications of this technique are pervasive, dating as far back as the Greeks, when murals of windows, doors, or hallways were painted on interior walls to give the illusion of more space inside a room. Trompe l’oeil also describes the forced-perspective used in theatre backdrops, visually combining the action on a stage with an imaginary setting. Working in collage, the picture plane is my theatre. Here I cast elements to play together. Unlike conventional trompe l'oeil, which aims to dupe the viewer, my constructions unveil the image's manufacture, while simultaneously unmasking its problematic subjects.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. - Marcus Annaeus Seneca (54 BC – 39 AD)
Paula Gillen's photographic series Roman Trumpe –l’oeil is a profound take on what it means to be a subject in an empire, a viewer of figures who dominate us, but who will also become historical subjects. - Richard Sober 2017