My painting was an idea from my professor, Ken Szmagaj about a small sketch I had done of Joaquin Phoenix form an old edition of Vanity Fair. He likened the hair as being something messy that would cool replicated like a Rorschach test, abstracted to an ink blot. I went with the idea because I thought it was a cool way to add abstraction to my subject without losing the opportunities to push my technical skill. The pose in the painting reminded me of Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Marat and I wanted to approach the figure in a similar neoclassical manner. As I worked the painting I tried to leave many areas of it raw, as I had in a previous work of a female subject, in an effort to balance the detail and development I planned to do in the face.
In the end areas looked too unfinished so I went back in and pushed them, such as the hair. Given my original inspiration, the idea of the Rorschach blots, I had planned to keep the hair as a black, drippy abstraction. However because of it’s central location I found it divided and distracted the painting too much. I did however retain the under painting of the shirt in the final project. I feel that space has a diaphanous quality which adds to the romanticism while also balancing the heavily rendered areas of the face. I also chose to darken the background to ‘pop’ the figure further into the foreground and too remove the original drips that had gone from the hair off the top of the composition. I liked the idea of them being there however, i found them to be an unnecessary element within the painting.
This painting works towards the theme and direction of my work because I’m interested in portraiture and how the portrait works as a social element. People are all around us, all day (well - in most landscapes. Perhaps not so with the outback), however immortalizing them visually on a surface seems to change the context entirely. Narcissism, connotations, environment, narrative and how people physically perceive themselves and others (mirrors, lenses, framed in windows, framed, etc.) really come into play in portraiture. Different then other embodiments of the human form, like history paintings or studies of the figure, the genre of portraiture seems to have so much more baggage to it. Why were they painted? Are they themselves or representing an allusion? Are they whom they are or whom they present to the world. For example some painters, like Lucian Freud, really seemed to present a raw interpretation of the person both physically and mentally (with especial note to his painting of John Minton). Or in a contrasting example, Andy Warhol who’s work was all about the image presented to the world, the celebrity or painters like the Pre-Raphaelites whom painted types of women, almost archetypes.
I think this painting definitely explores the narcissistic element and the play with physically seeing, this one kind of touching on optical illusions. I think I accomplished what I set out to do and am happy with the result despite forever finding discrepancies between the left and right faces. At this point I’m not really sure that going back into the piece to mitigate them would do much other than frustrate me. I feel I would be better served to start the next painting with the possibility that I could always have another go at some of the passages that irk me.
Titles?: Because One Wasn’t Enough, Gemini, Two Heads Are Better Than One