Still image from a video showing a young woman wearing white and seated in a bath full of water.
Saoirse Wall (b.1992), Gesture 2, 2014. © National Gallery of IrelandCredit

Gesture 2

A learning resource for young people entering the Zurich Young Portrait Prize.

Who is the artist?
Saoirse Wall
Where is the artist from?
She was born in Ireland.
When was the artist born?
She was born in 1992.
When was this portrait made?
2014
What type of portrait is this?
Self-portrait
What size is it?
This piece is shown on a standard sized flat screen monitor. 

What is it made of?
This piece is a digital HD video. The image you see here is a still. A still is one frame of many frames that make a moving image.

Who is the sitter?
This is a self-portrait so the sitter is the same person as the artist! Saoirse Wall is an Irish artist living and working in Mayo and Dublin.

How was it made?
This was made by placing a camera on a tripod and recording this one shot for a period of time. The artist positioned the camera in a certain way, and with specific lighting, to achieve a particular lighting and atmospheric effect.

Why did the artist make this portrait?
Self-portraits are made for many reasons. In this portrait, the artist used video to show that one person can be many things. During the video she moves and poses in different ways, and looks at the camera to communicate with us and let us see her portrait unfold in real time.

Look closely

Take a look at this list of words: 

tiles
water
cloth
skin 
hair 
squares
white

Now look at the portrait. Can you see these parts of the picture? Can you see anything else?

Look again!

Take a look at this list of words: 

focused 
thoughtful
complex
creative
cold
funny
intelligent 

Now look at the picture again. Do any of these words describe the sitter? How would you describe her? Take out a notepad and jot down in your own words how you make this portrait.

Get creative!

Now think of other ways the artist could have made this self-portrait. 

  • Could it be a painting? A print? A sculpture?
  • Could she be standing instead of sitting in the bath? Could she be outdoors instead of indoors? 
  • Could objects be included in this portrait? What do you think they would be?

Try sketching another version of this portrait in a notebook or a spare sheet of paper.