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David Chalmers
, 2011

by Nick Mourtzakis

oil on canvas (support: 183 cm x 122 cm)

David Chalmers (b. 1966), philosopher, is world-renowned as an investigator of consciousness. Excelling at mathematics at the University of Adelaide in the mid- 1980s, Chalmers was awarded a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford, but in 1989 chose to join the graduate program in philosophy at Indiana University, USA. There he wrote his doctoral thesis, ‘Toward a theory of consciousness’, which became the influential book The Conscious Mind: In search of a fundamental theory (1996). Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and director of the Centre for Consciousness at ANU, and Professor of Philosophy and co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness at New York University, Chalmers continues to probe the philosophy of mind and related areas of philosophy and cognitive science thinking, and lecture and write about all sorts of other issues to do with mind and language, metaphysics and epistemology, and the foundations of cognitive science. Attentive to the role of subjective experience in consciousness as much as neuroscience and the psychology of consciousness, in essence he seeks to determine a set of fundamental principles that connect physical processes to consciousness.

Nick Mourtzakis (b. 1951), Melbourne-based artist and teacher, was born in Chalkis, Greece and migrated to Melbourne with his family as a three-year-old. He trained at the Preston Institute of Technology and Mercer House Teachers’ College in the early 1970s. Having taught art continuously since 1975, he is now a lecturer at Monash University Faculty of Art and Design. Curator Christopher Chapman writes that ‘after meeting David Chalmers for the first time Nick Mourtzakis was struck by his utter sensitivity. The subtlety of Chalmers’s thinking, the lucidity and formality of his writing about consciousness suggested to Mourtzakis the necessity of making the portrait as non-material and non-physical as possible. Sketches the artist made from life were developed into the final portrait, which is a powerful likeness that evokes calmness and serenity. Within the complex open visual structure of geometric lines and spaces is the suggestion of the softness and substance of a marble bust. A thin vertical strip provides a vector of focus and stability and holds the freedom of the form together. The painting creates a portrait of Chalmers that speaks powerfully and quietly of the subtlety of consciousness and the human mind.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned 2011
Accession number: 2011.17.1