Men's Health Australia


Some years ago, Val Kilmer began selling his original artwork on the Internet. Kilmer has been making art for a long time. He takes photographs and creates scrapbook-style media collages with atmospheric abstract paintings resembling blooms of underwater lava. His neon sculpture of a dyspeptic-looking Mahatma Gandhi hung for a while in the restaurant of a fancy hotel in South Beach, and he once cast a tumbleweed in 22-karat gold.

But the project he’s become most famous for is an ongoing series of quasi-self-portraits – Warholian pop-art images of Kilmer in character as Batman or Doc Holliday or Jim Morrison, rendered using stencils and brightly coloured enamel paint on 30cm-by-30cm squares of reclaimed steel. Sometimes he’ll superimpose a stenciled word like ‘love’ on the image, or a variation of a quote from one of his movies, such as ‘chicks dig the car’. His website didn’t have any Doc Holliday paintings at press time, but for a fan-friendly $150, you could still acquire a portrait of Kilmer as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky – Tom Cruise’s nemesis and beach-volleyball rival in Top Gun – in a range of colours from neon green to red and blue to eerie red-on-black.

These are not the most technically complex or conceptually weighty paintings. They are not even technically complex or conceptually weighty by the standards of other paintings by Val Kilmer. But there’s an additional layer of meaning to them, because they’re portraits of Val Kilmer by Val Kilmer.

The pictures feel like a sincere effort on his part to use the tools at his disposal to make sense of his own relationship to a postmodern character called “Val Kilmer”, who is less a person than a collection of symbolic echoes, and who casts a long shadow over the real Val Kilmer’s life despite existing solely in the media landscape and the public’s mind. There is nothing inherently interesting about a piece of steel with a stenciled image of Val Kilmer as Batman on it, but a piece of steel on which Val Kilmer himself has painted a stenciled image of Val Kilmer as

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