Born in Canada and based in Manhattan, Karel Funk discovered the meaning of personal space while riding the New York subway for the first time. His subjects are the every day men and women he observes there at a close range. As Funk closes in past the comfort zone, he’s met with a certain rejection. Their clothing, hair or headphones act like a modern day armor that shields the viewer from any possibility to engage. Some paintings show only a jacket, a hood, or the back of a girl’s ponytail. What is left for us to speculate are things like folds in fabric, which Funk renders to a hyper-realistic point, and we become a voyeur to these details.
Tomas Clayton takes us back 100 years with his nostalgic portraits set in the World War I era. Re-imagining documentary photographs and artifacts from this time period, Clayton creates enigmatic, highly stylized images that zero in on various characters — soldiers, acrobats, actors, and average men and women alike. Influenced by the aesthetics of the 1970s, elements of this period get muddled with his early 20th century imagery, as well. As a result, his oil on masonite works at times become dislodged from a specific time and place, inviting viewers to create narratives of their own.
Italian artist Marco Grassi applies his hyperrealist painting chops to portraits that are slightly unconventional. While he paints mostly young, beautiful female subjects in traditional studio settings, his work becomes remarkable for the surreal accoutrements with which he adorns his characters. In one piece, a model’s back becomes porous with a carved, baroque design — her body hollow like a doll’s. In other paintings, he experiments with colorful body paint, tattoos, fabrics, and even a translucent, shield-like piece of futuristic jewelry. Throughout his portrait series, Grassi uses his skills with oils to create convincing illusions that make it easy for viewers to suspend disbelief.
Illinois based artist Anne Harris has a Renaissance-inspired technique, but there’s an emotional realism in her portraits. One of her primary interests as a painter is to portray the complex relationship between other’s perceptions versus our own. Her 21st century women evoke a certain self awareness in this respect. This may result from Harris’ process which involves studying her own features in the mirror while she paints. Since her early work, her style has become progressively softer and more simplified.
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.