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Circus Boy

© the artist. Image credit: Government Art Collection

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All is not what it seems in this painting by Juan Bolivar. Circles, triangles, diamonds and rhomboids in bright saccharine colours, are scattered randomly over the canvas. Viewed more closely, the shapes reveal a human face. At the top corners, two black circles with inset diamond shapes stare out like harlequin eyes; the red central circular shape resembles a clown's nose; and the jagged blue shape along the top fringes the face like hair. Each shape appears to be momentarily suspended in the middle of a juggling act. Bolivar has likened this visual metaphor to the spiral of 'The Snail', the famous collage by Henri Matisse of 1953 in the Tate. 'Circus Boy', painted as part of Bolivar's postgraduate degree at Goldsmiths College, London, is one of several playful paintings in which he has created faces from a repertoire of abstract shapes, a process that he calls 'faciality'.

Government Art Collection



Circus Boy




acrylic on canvas


H 226 x W 192.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased from the artist, 2003

Work type



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Government Art Collection

Old Admiralty Building, Admiralty Place, London, Greater London SW1A 2BL England

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