The paintings of Korean artist KwangHo Shin are most certainly portraits. Though they depart from many of the elements of typical portraits they’re instantly recognizable as such. Shin uses charcoal to build the underlying structure – parts resembling hair, neck, shoulders, and ears. The faces aren’t so much painted as formed by gobs of oi paint. Hints of facial features such as eyes and noses may be ambiguously implied in each piece. However, its really the inner person Shin is after, the echoes of which linger for a moment on the face.
Romanian artist Mircea Popescu‘s series Head Stock unravels the typical portrait. These obsessively detailed pieces are linocut prints – the image etched, inked, and impressed on paper. Portraits often become stand-in’s for the sitter they identify. Instead, Popescu’s faces float independent of bodies and clear facial features. The images seem to be piled with countless layers hinting at a physical face and pointing to something deeper behind it. The complexities of the Popescu’s faces reflect the intricacy of identities behind portraits.
Strainers are tools not often seen outside of the kitchen, much less in the art studio. However, artist Isaac Cordal puts them to use in a series of street installations titled Cement Bleak. For the series Cordal sculpts human faces into the mesh of the hand held strainers. The strainers are then inserted into the ground. Sunlight or streetlights pass through the strainers and project a shadow portrait onto the sidewalk. The nature of strainer’s mesh allows for a strangely realistic face from several angles of light.
Photographer Ana Oliveira‘s Identities II is a touching series of portraits. She begins with old photographs of her subjects and through similar lighting, clothing, and poses she creates a parallel photograph. As much as sixty years lies between some of the older and newer portraits. The two portraits arranged side by side become a sort of existential before and after. I find myself imagining what took place in the decades between the two photographs, evidence of something in the now more pronounced lines in each sitters face. Its difficult not to envision expressions of expectation in the younger portraits, and mixtures of disappointment or content in their older counterparts.
Photographer Alma Haser has often incorporated origami into her work. However, in her series Cosmic Surgery the origami is brought to the forefront. For the Cosmic Surgery Haser photographs a series of portraits. She next makes multiple prints of the portraits and folds them into complex origami objects. The origami pieces are placed back into the portrait and a photograph is taken of the final composition. Haser mixes the meditative nature of origami and transposes it onto the face of her subject, somehow injecting simple portraits with an esoteric atmosphere.
Ana de Orbegoso‘s series of photographes, titled The Invisible Wall, is a way of visually depicting personal prejudices. The photographs are a series of portraits each obscured by a pair of hands, as if the subject were hiding their face. Underneath the hands, though, a face subtly appears. Obviously, the series’ title refers to a figurative wall, a social one. Of these ‘walls’ she says:
“Behind our individual walls we each keep hidden our prejudices, our preconceptions, our highest aspirations. Our individual walls serve to protect us by enabling us to always hold something back, an edge between what is hidden and what is revealed.”
The portraits of Marcus Cain fall somewhere between abstract and figurative. His faces appear to be in the process of solidifying, perhaps alluding to the identity they express.
Cain says, “I am currently interested in a particulate view of the human condition, acts of transformation, and shifting identities….My hope is to capture the figure in a transformative, in-between state.”
Cain also uses processes that allude to past styles such as pointillism and abstract expressionism. His nearly eerie portraits often dominated by prominent staring eyes, however, are reminiscent of pulp depictions of phantoms and apparitions.
Brendan Danielsson‘s portraits are wonderfully ugly. Though each piece incorporates the image of a sole person, there is plenty of conflict. The pieces easily explore ideas of beauty and ugliness; they are at once sensual and repulsive. While appearing almost alien each portrait is somehow still strangely familiar. Danielsson is able to portray each ‘character’ as clearly part of a larger hidden narrative.
If you can’t pull your eyes away from Brendan Danielsson’s work, make sure to check out the Beautiful/Decay Book: 9. The book features the paintings and drawings of Danielsson along with many other artists, designers, illustrators, and writers.