Present Imperfect is an exploration into what it means to paint a figurative portrait, particularly that of a woman. It is an exercise in duality: abstract vs representational, of traditional vs contemporary, specific vs universal. By shedding possible attachment to representational qualities, can the painting become more honest, more piercing, and even more real?
Present imperfect: a grammatical tense which presents the action in the present as continuous, not yet over. I aim to break free of the static pose, the one moment in time, in pursuit of the continuous. Each model and painting has a central fulcrum that represent a solid core — the essence of the individual person. However, as each individual has several capabilities and facets to their personality, choosing only one pose to portray them, as if representative of the individual, is limiting. Instead, each painting is a composite of multiple poses from the same model, all grounded and centred on the axis of the fulcrum. This fulcrum also serves to unite the image visually by providing a sense of aesthetic stability. While abstracted, the painting is grounded by its representational quality. This requires a process of constant decision-making, since the final image does not exist in reality; what parts to pull forward and push back, what areas to highlight or obliterate.
My art education took place in a traditional atelier; drawing was always the foundation of a solid painting, and I learned by studying the masters. In this series, I strive to advance my art practice by respecting – indeed, holding dear – traditional master techniques and materials but opposing, perhaps inversing, the traditional idea of the muse. Each figure is painted in isolation, without narrative. By stripping the painting of a narrative, the viewer must confront the nude with little context and will thereby confront their own views and opinions on the nude human figure and, ideally, women. In Present Imperfect, traditional practices are maintained while the raw materials play an integral role. The work is created from simple, traditional materials — linen, oil paint, and linseed oil — that, like us, breathe and change, expand and contract, and have a lifespan. Linen has a downside: it expands and contracts with variable environmental situations. The natural movement can cause paint to crack with time. Likewise, we also change, and cracks develop in our skin. The materials chosen are like our physical beings; the abstraction of our form alike our limitless minds.
Models are integral to my work. I revel in getting to know the visible, physical qualities that capture a likeness, and the intangible energy that projects a personality. While compelled by the specifics, I also find connection in universality. These works exist in the area between specific and universal. While they are unequivocally a depiction of an individual, they go beyond representation by abstracting that individual. The model might still be recognizable to those who know them, but the image can also connect with viewers through an overarching sense of humanity. In their abstraction, the work ceases to be strictly a portrait, and yet the figure never takes on a sense of being generic.
In Present Imperfect, I strive for a type of honesty that lives in the space between representational rendering and expressionism. Painted skin becomes tactile, two dimensions create the illusion of a third, a static image takes on movement. The purpose is not to achieve equilibrium in duality, but rather to continually test its balance.