“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 first became interested in portraiture while in school, seeing an intriguing photo in a magazine showing someone wearing a mask and top-hat. The image was striking and powerful, and I began searching for and painting images with a similar intensity and magic.

 

To distance myself from my subjects, I collect found photographs for reference. This allows me to side-step a subject’s natural self-consciousness, 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 and friends’ albums, thrift stores, and most recently, the Internet. They represent the loss of privacy in an environment where cameras are so much a part of the landscape that many people are no longer even cognisant of them. However, I see the individuals in these portraits able 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 much more personal; I’m editing and challenging the source material. The documentation of a subject is evolving into the re-inventing of an image. Painting from found photographs has become 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.

Artist's Statement

© 2017 Campbell Wallace