I was first inspired to paint on drum skins because I was attracted to the round frame, which I related to tondos from the Italian Renaissance. Upon working on this surface, I realized that the concentric markings left behind by the drummer was very beautiful in its own right. Unique in its composition and intensity, each drum skin tells a story. I source these skins from the Humber College Music Department, where everyday these skins are beaten to the point of near uselessness by eager young musicians. I then repurpose the skin by selecting it based on its unique design, which corresponds to the portrait I wish to render. I am interested in painting portraits of musicians who have fire in their bellies, those that reach a transcendental state while performing which is reflected in their expression. During these moments, I believe the tarnish of life fades away and the human spirit is evident most clearly.
Representing the human figure has been present since the early days of mark making. Portraiture in itself has long been used as a device for propaganda, to idealize and flatter the sitter, or to expose the brutal truth. I am inspired by it’s ability to reveal the depths and reality of a human being as well as walk the line of illusion. With a voyeuristic approach, I expose my subjects from the inside out.
By using the semiotics of traditional portraiture inspired by artists such as Ingres and Manet, I impart integrity on my sitter, as well as use the technique as an agent of revelation. I find the mystery of the human spirit to be the most intriguing subject matter. Each subject’s expression and individual features reveal their psychological state as well as unique presence. The sitters are at once revealed by their insides and are symbolically connected to their external environment.
Inspired by the self-portraits of Vincent Van Gogh and Jacques-Louis David, who mastered the art of passion revealed behind fiery assertive eyes, I chose females as my predominant subjects. In my work they are exposed, revealing emotions of pain, passion, anguish and frustration. Often seen as passive objects of the gaze, historically women were rarely allowed the authority of passionate and aggressive portraits. Conversely, the females in these works either meet the viewer with a defiant gaze or look elsewhere as if disinterested by what the viewer thinks. The women in these paintings are active beholders.
Growing up in the suburbs, chain supermarkets were part of my environment and my visual landscape. The multitude of long colourful aisles, each dedicated to different products was impactful. Sometimes there would be an entire aisle dedicated to many brands of the same product. This painting series was inspired by the overwhelming feeling one may experience while trying to pick out the right floor cleaner, or laundry detergent. The experience can be a long one, as we read the back of labels we compare brand reputation, value, even ingredients. Choosing the right paper towel may be as subconscious as choosing the one with the most conspicuous package design. As every product is aiming for our attention, we end up with a display of products specifically designed to be as eye-catching and colour complimentary as possible. The result is a visual sensory overload, a battle between products for consumer’s attention.
Living in a Western society, we enjoy the luxury of hundreds of brands for the same product, but at what point does it become an unnecessary abundance? Through my paintings of store shelves, I have aimed to represent the visual conversation between products and people. To draw attention to the degree of conditioning we are subjected to in society and the level of subconscious brand recognition. In my paintings, not one brand name is legible, yet most of them are recognizable.
Aesthetically this work is influenced by the land/seascapes of the Romantics, mainly Turner and Friedrich. Their dominatingly large colourful skies allow the viewer to feel small and insignificant at the wrath of nature.
During the Enlightenment period, artists feared we would loose touch with nature due to the luxuries that came with metal, steel and steam. This fear is especially relevant today as our technology saturated lives draw us further and further away from the realities of nature and human interaction.
Living in a densely populated city does not necessarily mean there is an abundance of substantial connections. Often, there is an overwhelming sense of feeling alone in a crowd. As a result, people cram themselves into narrow bars at night, hoping to relate to other human beings or at the very least feel physically close.
We focus so closely on the miniscule details of our lives that we often forget to look up. The brooding sky depicted is based on the torrential Toronto storm in July 2013. It was a screaming reminder to reprioritize and focus on connecting with ourselves, those around us and the space in which we all exist.