Thoughts on Portraits (and what next?)

Artists make and use their art for a myriad of different reasons from catharsis to financial gain. I have used the medium of portraiture to introduce myself to a newly acquired community of acquaintances in Deptford. 

Nacho and Gordon sitting for their portrait

Nacho and Gordon sitting for their portrait

In essence I have been painting people who I knew lived in the area in order to fast track friendship! When you spend a solid four hour session sat facing someone you more often than not bypass civilities and small talk. The process is as intimate as a hair cut, as intense as a therapy session but silences can be shared with the same companionship as a long car journey. It is one of my favourite ways of getting to know someone. 

In the Deptford Portrait series I made a very conscious effort to adapt process and style to the individual. MC Spee is rough, lanky and loud. Conversation was made up of highly entertaining fractured tales of various music scenes, night lives and relationships. For his portrait it made sense to load paint onto chip board with a old hog hair brush. Compare this with Frances who is immaculate, composed and breviloquent. I watched a video of Peter Blake painting in oil paint with what looked like watercolour brushes to achieve a smooth clean, crisp, surface. This is how I decided to paint Frances to reflect her character. 

MC Spee painted with a hog hair brush and Frances with a nylon acrylic brush

MC Spee painted with a hog hair brush and Frances with a nylon acrylic brush

I enjoyed getting lost in the sequins and jewels on the hats of Polly and Sophie. I scalpel cut masking tape stencils to depict sharp spikes of light, impasto dots and glazes followed by a reserved use of white paint to create a tangible sense of three dimensionality. 

Detail of Polly's sequined hat

Detail of Polly's sequined hat

And the twins' costumes along with Gemma Rolls-Bentley Wilde's ruff and feathers are a nod to a world of regal fantasy that references the pomp and formality of portraits by Van Dyck or Rubens. I feel I should play to my strengths in obsessing over detail and pursue the portrayal of this kind of otherworldliness. 

Marie Louise de Tassis by Van Dyck (1629) and Gemma Rolls-Bentley Wilde

Marie Louise de Tassis by Van Dyck (1629) and Gemma Rolls-Bentley Wilde

I have noticed that the majority of the paintings show a solo person facing frontal, my default mode of painting people is a head and shoulders with backgrounds flat or devoid of context. I need to push myself into multiple person compositions where people exist within architecture of some kind. The Neo Rauch show at the David Zwirner taught me that you can invent your own rules compositionally, spatially and narratively. 

Neo Rauch - 'The Joint' (2007)

Neo Rauch - 'The Joint' (2007)

I have learnt a lot from doing this series of paintings and I've made some Deptford friends. It's now time to set myself some new challenges and be willing to push myself out of my various comfort zones.