“Recently, contemporary painters have tried to revive the narrative in painting. I admire some of them for their courage and skill, but the narrative paintings they’ve produced haven’t been convincing – the subjects seem self-conscious – either overly anecdotal or arcane.” -William Bailey
Painting real people presents the greatest challenge and satisfaction for me as an artist. Narrative portraits allow me to paint what interests me most about a person – their interactions, failures, and triumphs. I became increasingly interested in portraiture after seeing a fascinating photo of an unknown someone wearing a porcelain mask and top hat. The image was striking and powerful, and I began searching for and painting images with a similar intensity and intrigue.
To distance myself from my subjects, I’ve been collecting found photographs for reference. This allows me to side-step a subject’s natural self-consciousness as well as my own sentimentality, and these found images present to me a story in motion; a ready-made dialogue. Many of these photographs have been discarded, forgotten, or ignored – I’ve found these images in dumpsters, recycling bins, family or friends’ albums, thrift stores, and most recently, online. The photos represent an increasing loss of privacy in an environment where cameras are so much a part of the landscape that many people are no longer even cognizant of them. Even as the world moves into ‘forced-voyeurism’, I see the individuals in these portraits endeavoring to transcend the trials of everyday life through humour and determination.
I’m painting images that compel me; subjects that resonate with me long after my first strong reaction to seeing them. Recently, the painting process is becoming more personal; I’m editing and challenging the source material. The documentation and elevation of a subject is evolving into the filtering and re-inventing of an image. Painting from found photographs is for me an excavation through multiple layers of meaning and interpretation which have been projected from my own experiences. My hope is to begin a painting in the same position that each viewer will eventually come to it – as a mystery to be unraveled.