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.
My large-scale charcoal portraits combine the ideals of classical realism with the sensibilities of post-internet and post-photographic aesthetics. 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 simply 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 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.