Sunday, 27 June 2010

Paint It Black

I’ve recently completed two new portrait paintings. ‘Safeera’, below, is the most recent and the one that I’m most pleased with. It’s based on a drawing I made of one of the students at JCC where I teach, when I was working on the ‘Audience’ commission for the college’s new building in 2008. I did include Safeera in one of the group portraits I made at the time. It was also always one of my favourite portraits from the whole project, and one that I have been keen to attempt in a second single portrait painting ever since.


oil on canvas, 120 x 90cms, 2010

There were a lot of portrait drawings that I made for this commission, many that I have never used. I have been particularly interested in developing some portraits of the young Muslim women that posed. It’s obviously a community under a lot of media scrutiny at the moment, which has interested me working at JCC where 95% of the students are Muslim, but I have been motivated by more formal interests which interest me more as a painter. This includes things such as depicting the drapery of the headscarves (which has fascinated me since seeing Alison Watts exhibition at the National Gallery), and an interest in black as a colour, and looking at areas of different blacks against each other. This comes out of an interest in Ad Reinhardts black abstract paintings, and the master painter of blacks, Velasquez (I’m putting myself in good company here, aren’t I?). I’ve been wanting to try something along Reinhardt’s lines in relation to my representational paintings for a long time. I can spend hours in front of the Reinhardt at Tate Modern.

This second portrait, ‘Tyrone’ is to be seen with my two other recent portraits, ‘Sam’ and ‘Alan’. The motivation for this one came from a slighter stranger formal place, and that was the sitters’ shared feature of male pattern baldness, which I thought would be interesting together. This seems as good a motivation for a painting as many.

oil on canvas, 90 x 60cms, 2010

Since completing the painting, I’ve been putting together the finishing touches to a film about my portraits, and realised how many of my portraits feature men with similarly bald features over the years. I thought it would be great to exhibit them as part of a larger group installation sometime. It’s got me so excited that I think I might do this as my contribution to this year’s Art Festival at JCC on the weekend of July 17th and 18th.

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