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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Next – Part 2 Is this all Surreal?
Adele – Painting Pictures