Self- portrait III
Fight or flight
65cm x 77cm
Oil on unstretched Belgian linen
My practice considers how portrait painting sits in a contemporary setting, building on the history and conventions of portraiture, self-portraiture and the human figure.
I am exploring ways of redefining the traditional subjects of painting. I am dedicated to the contemporary but also deeply attached to the tradition that dates back to the great Baroque masterpieces of portraiture. Through my paintings, I ask how to measure that a painter belongs to her time?
The three foundations of my painting technique are light, gesture and material . Chiaroscuro is a technique that refers to the intense contrasts of light and dark within a painting. This embodies depth through slow gradation of light and shadow. I am interested in the process of immersing my subjects into dark almost melancholy atmospheres, sometimes depicting loneliness or sometimes serenity. Illuminating ordinary characters in quiet moments, bathed in cinematographic clarity, but with eerie twilight effects. Working relentlessly to evoke a humanity closely interconnected under the prism of the ethical and psychological dilema’s of our contemporary world. Opposed to perhaps just the tradition of documenting history for future generations. I try to create a sense that my subjects are out of time and space, enhancing enigmatic figures charged with psychological tension, but at the same time also rejecting narrative clarity. This feeling can be created through composition, lighting and space. I am questioning the use of minimalistic subject matter to aid the expression of poetic and ethereal evocation of my subject. I feel locked in when I work on small formats that do not allow me to express the extent of these gestures.
In relation to historical material used, Eugene Delacroix (who is considered the greatest French Romantic painter from the nineteenth century) used photography as an aid to drawing. In a book written by German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Benjamin zeroes in on the use of photographs in relation to portraits.
“One of the – often unspoken- objections to photography: that it is impossible for the human countenance to be apprehended by a machine. This is the sentiment of Delacroix in particular.” 1
Thinking through Benjamin’s idea, I aim to use photographs as a starting point for my paintings, but then … I try through the image, to find the painting, in which I strive to capture the subtle moment that vibrates at the heart of an expression, as spontaneous as it is unforeseen. In the solitude of the studio everything plays between the hand, the brush and the mind in a constant back and forth to capture the essence of a moment, the liveliness of an experience, or simply trying to capture the soul. Painting innocuous subjects and transforming them into powerful metaphors of human emotion. Portraiture was the genre that was the most vulnerable to the onset of photography, but as artists we protest that a machine cannot capture the intricacies of the human soul. With the creation of illusory paintings, I employ the use of portraiture through the sculptural approach to painting from life combined with the use of photography to convey ambiguous emotional states, an aura of emotional instability- with the hope of catching the uncatchable expression in the face.
My work attempts to mine the intersection of my personal history with the influence of the great human questions, where do we come from? Where are we going? Ultimately my paintings simply reflect my personal exploration of human identity. My paintings aim to be open-ended, to keep some mystery and space for a viewer. This leaves the viewers to have a connection to a face, but not a specific person, rather the vague idea of an out-of-focus identity… I like my work to fall into a form of anonymity, as a way to deflect vanity, and identity as an ever-changing evolution. Although much of the world today is ugly, I remain true to the notion of beauty and blinding lucidity.
 Art History Today, “Art History Today,” Art History Today (blog) (Typepad Blogs, December 21, 2012), https://artintheblood.typepad.com/art_history_today/2012/12/delacroix-painting-and-photography.html
Art History Today. “Delacroix, Painting and Photography.” Art History Today (blog). Typepad Blogs, December 21, 2012. https://artintheblood.typepad.com/art_history_today/2012/12/delacroix-painting-and-photography.html