Statement : Ceruse

QuotedIn my small figurative oil paintings there is a dialogue between the plastic qualities inherent to painting and the stillness of the ‘still’ photograph.  In my process I am especially interested in portraying ideas and emotions that are difficult to express through words, and so find their outlet through physical gesture, posture and facial expression.  Using myself as model (and occasionally other persons) I perform emotional theater – enacting and documenting those gestures which seem to capture most succinctly my initial conception for a project, while at the same time allowing for the accidental.  By using the ‘instant capture’ made possible by photography I look for those awkward moments which exist when a person’s countenance seems unmade and therefore is at its most fragile.  I then reconstruct the chosen images in paint, emphasizing the ‘skin’ of the painting: the surface is puckered, pulled – even torn through to reveal the imprimatura – magnifying the initial gesture and the emotion of the subject.  Thus I allow the viewer to experience an emotional climax captured photographically but drawn out, or attenuated, through the medium of painting – a single moment swelling to encompass a larger emotional precedent.

When I began transcribing these emotions I did so by portraying relatively mute parts of the body such as toes, or an ear, or a pair of hands – which acted as stand ins for entire body.  This changed two years ago when I began to paint faces – usually cropped so as not to reveal an identity so much as a universal emotion.  I became intrigued by the way the underlying emotion could be shown to affect the surface of the skin through manipulation of the painting technique.  In the same way that a single stone thrown into a still pond will reverberate long after its initial impact, the painted surface and brushwork emphasize and magnify the initial gesture of the subject.

In the past few months I have begun two new series of paintings.  In these images I have add yet another layer of ‘paint’, by employing a dissembling layer of makeup, usually powder or rouge, on the model to create an applied meaning, which intercedes between the actual subject (the model being painted) and the painted surface of the canvas.  What intrigues me is not today’s use of makeup, used to mimic and heighten the actual, but the artificiality of makeup used from the16th to early 20th century. Which, while permitting the onlooker to glimpse the actual features and expressions of the wearer – becomes a mask more than an attempt at naturalism.  Drawing on cultural and art historical references such as Weimar and 18c portraits, where makeup and powder serve to both conceal and reveal, the images speak to me about both mortality and the lies that painting can tell: how the skin that is painted and the skin made of paint are both illusions.