The important portrait
My most recent work extends my exploration of such contradictions from external subjects to my own physical and emotional states, using the medium of porcelain masks moulded from my face and then ornamented and disfigured before the firing process. The masks expose a polyphony of emotions evoked through colour, texture, shape and expression. The face is the perfect subject, able to express an infinity of emotions and constantly monitored for the signals it transmits.
The process of making the masks, a repeated casting and moulding to capture and perfect an expression, begins the examination of the endless public faces that we must generate for our interaction with the outside world. These are both faces that we create and faces that are cast by the people who we interact with; expressions that are drawn from us by others in the course of our interactions, casts that exist in their memory, that only they hold and that may show aspects of ourselves that we neither know, control nor understand. The casting process is not just physically exhausting, but also emotionally so since each cast demands a cross-examination of the facial expression that it captures. The process also challenges the fundamental “reality” of expression, we can never know whether the captured face manifests a deep emotion, a passing feeling or a technical distortion yet each must be interrogated as a potential mirror of the artist’s inner world.
The ornamentation and distortion of the masks begins a secondary process somewhat akin to the public presentation of oneself and one’s emotions. The most poetic of these pieces are the distorted masks that have collapsed under their own weight and seemingly gravitated into the form of a heart, losing all trace of the face. These evoke moments where our burden of emotional artifice can no longer be maintained and we are forced to expose ourselves; our body and muscles are no longer able to protect our inner feelings.