My portrait-practice is driven by an underlying fascination with the human person, their voices, their faces, their breath and their silent gaze. Indeed, the human face is a mysterious site, etched with a beauty and dignity that beckons portrayal.
These portraits combine the ideals of classical realism with the sensibilities of post-internet and post-photographic aesthetics. Without using grids or a projector, the artist becomes a sort of human trackpad, zooming in and out of the drawing plane. The monumental scaling of these faces, rendered manually by hand, exudes a sense of beguiling tactility and dexterity that fixes the viewer’s gaze. Unlike the multitude of faces constantly crowding our digital screens, I want to create portraits with a solidity that cannot easily be dismissed and ‘swiped’ away. The sheer scale of these works demands a certain reverence from its viewers, a visual and embodied experience that begs the viewer to pause and to listen. In a frenetic world driven by constant meetings, deadlines and online notifications, these portraits call the viewer to stop and to behold the face of the Other; a call towards human reciprocality, begging the onlooker: ‘Look at me. I am here. I am waiting’.
Affective notions of presence and aura are also central to the aesthetic goals of my work, a visual and embodied ‘affect’ that rises out of the very process of making. Using a combination of charcoal, erasers, tortillon and sandpaper, I render the pigment–removing and adding layers upon layers–in a continuous rhythm of mark-making, sometimes to the point of tearing through the paper. The repetitive action of mark-making multiplied by the hours and days required to complete these works imbues the finished portrait with a heavy accumulation of the artist’s trace. The overabundant presence of the artist’s hand and the resulting ‘aura’ that this exudes serves as a substitute for the missing presence of the absent sitter.
My selection of portrait subjects is decided intuitively based on the faces that resonate with me on some emotional, intellectual or anecdotal levels. Subjects with a sense of communicable pathos always immediately capture my eye, as do surfaces that emphasize the beauty and fragility of the human person: the tender contours of a child’s forehead, the inescapable folds of a grandmother’s neck, the glassy roundness of the human eye. I also have a growing interest in those people who work with simple and menial forms of labour. As an artist who renders images using manual analogue modes of mark-making, I find a strong affinity between drawing as a repetitive ‘manual’ and ‘menial’ task with the sorts of activities taken by simple street workers. Both activities are tactile, tedious and hand-performed actions contributing towards a larger meaning, whether it be for one’s livelihood, or the production of an intentional cultural product.