South African artist Ryan Hewett looks straight to the core of his subjects in boldly expressive paintings. For his upcoming exhibition “Untitled” at the Unit London, opening April 24th, Hewett depicts world leaders and influencers as we aren’t used to seeing them. His portraits of President Obama, JFK, Martin Luther King, and Contemporary artists like Ai Weiwei are stripped down to the most vague details. If there is any power to be represented, it is in his gestural technique, heavily influenced by figurative painters like Frank Auerbach. By focusing on the raw human nature of his subjects, Hewett creates a non-specific portrayal that is free of judgement.
Yasuyo Fujibe’s softspoken, decorative works immediately caught our eye at LA Art Show last week. Her pieces there represented a departure from her older monochromatic paintings of faces in favor of new bolder elements. This would be her unique portrayal of doe-eyed girls in the arabesque style of Islamic art. Her use of surface decorations are based on the linear patterns of foliage and snowflakes, tiled repeatedly in a lace-like manner. Quiet yet intense, girls stare dreamily through their veils of interwoven lines.
Haris Purmono’s hyperrealistic portraits illustrate resilience. The Indonesian artist began his practice in the 1970s under Suharto’s military government and the battle-scarred faces of his civilian subjects symbolize the country’s difficult past. Purmono’s sitters are everyday individuals whose faces the artist embellishes with bandages and dragon tattoos. Despite their different ethnicities and social classes, these symbols unite the subjects of his work and hint at their shared cultural history.
These colorful, sometimes discomforting portraits by Tehran-based artist Afarin Sajedi present a unique image of strength. They are the many faces and mixed emotions of modern Iranian women, particularly the pain and joy felt upon leaving the safe walls of home. She is heavily inspired by Heinrich Boll’s Clown, seen in her use of makeup, while Gustav Klimt’s color palette strongly influences her use of agressive colors like red. This is also evident in her subject’s costumes worn similarly to traditional hijab headwear. Some replace their hijab with helmets and plastic bags, while others express themselves by piercing their skin with utensils. No matter how they are outfitted, Sajedi’s women hold onto their bold spirit underneath.
One of the most striking features of David Slone’s high-definition portraits is his treatment of his subjects’ skin. In each larger-than-life oil painting of an anonymous individual, Slone zeroes in on the way light hits the sitter’s face. He shows us how a peach tone can fracture into dozens of different, subtle hues. Slone makes pores and hairs visible in the way they are only when we press our face up to someone else’s. His works thrust his viewers into an intimate interaction with his subjects.
“Their world was soft like melancholy. The conversation was silent. Their faces were small and round, incapable of invoking fear. Once the door was open, nothing could be unseen.” This is how Kathie Olivas describes the childlike subjects of her latest exhibition at AFA gallery, “Safe from Tomorrow”. The show boasts a series of 20 new paintings and 16 sculptures inspired by early Americana portraiture. The nostalgia felt by her palette and inspiration is constrasted with a concept set in the future.