I’ve recently developed a fascination with defunct shop signs. Retailers that have left remains of shop front lettering and new owners who have poorly concealed their past ownership. These layers of competing imagery create a unique aesthetic that seems to have parallels with my ambitions for painting.
In searching for a subject for a recent portrait, I had wanted to capture a face that represented the same visual aesthetic that I’d witnessed in disused shop signage – a curious interest, I know. However, it seemed that there could be something interesting in drawing comparison between the objective qualities of a deteriorating image and that of the subjective content of a living being.
Faces tell their own story, conceal and expose in equal measure and it would seem that in this way they are as fallible as the signs from which I am trying to draw comparison.
Knowing, personally, the subject behind ones portrait can often bring its own shortcomings. Nevertheless, the chosen subject for my portrait had been that of a relative. A recent operation to their face had rendered it swollen and bruised, far more so than was to be expected. The resultant appearance being acutely aggressive, I couldn’t help but see the tenderness of their person shine through the blackened skin. This antagonism of objective disfigurement over subjective persona had come to represent all I was looking for in a portrait.
Both the sentiment and the aesthetic of my original reference point had informed the brushwork and palette of the painting as it had progressed. Open-ended brushwork as well as pockets and windows into the primed surface of the canvas were all directly related to the imagery of old commercial signage. The portrait was dictated by the subject in front of me, whereas the mood of the piece came from a much more unglamorous source.
Words and Art: Jon Barrett
Editor: Beck Nickolls @becknickolls @artistscribbles
Categories: Guest Bloggers