Understanding This New Art Movement of Defacement Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

I have been wrestling with all this art where the artists distort, smear, or obscure the face on their portraits. I do not understand it. I do not understand the sheer number of artists who do this art. I have asked artists, bloggers, and art teachers about this and have gotten no replies beyond “well art is subjective”. ??????? So I am going to write about it, because I work out my thoughts as I write, and as with art (??????) this too is subjective. If you hate it stop reading. I am including examples of art, all attributed to the artist and linked to where I found them. If you are the artists please email me at clisawork@gmail.com if you want me to remove your art. This is not intended to be a criticism of individual pieces of art; rather this is me attempting to understand as a whole this movement of art.

from the "Nuestra" series by Januz MIralles
from the “Nuestra” series by Januz MIralles

I believe this constitutes an art movement. So you, if you know anything about art, probably disagree already. I know nothing about art except what I learned as a history student (that is one of my degrees). In the past artists would study from a master, or get together in coffee shops in Paris, or a farm in Spain, or studios in New York and spawn a movement. They had a philosophy, or a central tenement, or an idea or a style that made their work recognizable to people who viewed it as coming from the same movement. Something has changed though – the internet. Now there are hundreds of artists from all over the world, who have attended dozens of different art schools, men and women, different ages and they are all doing the exact same kind of portraiture. They are defacing their subjects – literally. Smearing their faces, drawing lines through faces, turning faces into grotesque masks. None of the examples I show you seem to be a direct symbol. Throughout art history there are in various cultures ways of shaping the face or using masks to symbolize something. This is not that. There is no direct symbolism that I can see anywhere here. In artist’s statements about their work, no symbolism is mentioned.

from the "2013" series by  Januz Miralles
from the “2013” series by Januz Miralles from the Philipines

Often in these works even when the full figure is shown only the face is smeared.  The rest of the body is painted, usually beautifully.  For awhile I thought, wrongly, that these artists couldn’t create faces.  They are in fact very good artists.

X-Report 43 by Kim Byungkwan
X-Report 43 by Kim Byungkwan

 

Phrontisterion 25/07 by Vinicius Consales Rodrigues of Brazil
Phrontisterion 25/07 by Vinicius Consales Rodrigues of Brazil

As you can see these depictions are precise, the colors are chosen carefully and work well together.  There is much skill and talent in these works.  My first instinct to label these works sloppy, or amateurish was horribly wrong.  There is much more here than a first glance can see. Another example:

Your Tomorrow by Henrietta Harris from New Zealand
Your Tomorrow by Henrietta Harris from New Zealand

So what is it about the face that causes them to focus on it, and to want to distort it?  This is where it gets so difficult for me.

unknown title by Daniel Martin
unknown title by Daniel Martin

 

Blue Man by Jean-Luc Almond
Blue Man by Jean-Luc Almond London, England

 

Is this simply the artist trying to represent people’s faces as they see them or imagine them? I would argue no, because this seems to be leaving to the idea that that these imaginings are all going to the same direction – to the face.  To blot out part of it, to smear part of it, to twist part of it.  This doesn’t seem the like the product of conventional imaginary ether, more like nightmares. Communal nightmares, from around world.

z31 by Michał Mozolewski from Poland
z31 by Michał Mozolewski from Poland

 

 

The Image by Simon Birch from Hong Kong
The Image by Simon Birch from Hong Kong

 

 

Twist by L. Verkler from USA
Twist by L. Verkler from USA

 

Is there a subtext?  Often these works seem like they are violent to me – violent to their subjects.  It seems as if the artists are inflicting violence on the canvas, on the subjects they are painting.

 

ID #06 Zin Lim from USA
ID #06 Zin Lim from USA

 

 

untitled by KwangHo Shin  from Seoul, Korea, Republic of
untitled by KwangHo Shin from Seoul, Korea, Republic of

 

Bo Fransson (Swedish) Olle Skagerfors - sd
Bo Fransson (Swedish) Olle Skagerfors – sd

 

 

Cutting Edge by Jae Liu Wubao aka Gunnmgally (Beijing, China)
Cutting Edge by Jae Liu Wubao aka Gunnmgally (Beijing, China)

 

Next – Part 2 Is this all Surreal?

Adele – Painting Pictures

 

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