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.
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 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 or ‘swiped’ away. The scale of these works begs a certain reverence from its viewers, a visual and embodied experience that invites the viewer to pause and to listen. In a frenetic world driven by meetings, deadlines and online notifications, these works 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’.
Using a combination of charcoal, charred branches, tortillons 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 drawing process compresses the movement of heat and pressure of my mark-making, transforming the substance of burnt wood into a representation of an image that has been compressed, condensed and transcribed through the artist’s hand.
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 emphasise 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 am also drawn towards people who engage in 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 work taken by street workers, artisans and those reliant on their hands .