Brian Donnelly Melts Faces with Hand Sanitizer in Recent Portraits

by Roxanne GoldbergPosted on

Rainbow waterfalls spill from the faces of Brian Donnelly‘s men and women. The Toronto-based painter describes himself as a portrait painter, yet he distorts and erodes his subjects to sometimes unrecognizable ends. Donnelly paints from real life, selecting his subjects based on interesting features such as piercing eyes or characteristic facial hair. He then paints them on canvas before using a combination of turpentine and hand sanitizer to make the colors run. These works are markedly different from Donnelly’s earlier full-body portraits topped with animal heads, which HF reported on in 2011. However, his earlier subjects and current process are both born from the artist’s interest in vulnerability. In his actions, Donnelly destroys the agency of his subjects and renders them helpless under his hand. The results are often screaming and hollow. The artist’s choice of titles however, complicate the images. “Greased” and “Crop” refer to the subjects’ hair styles to suggest their identities are innately tied to this feature, while others like “Pineapple Express” and “Fountain of Youth” are more playful. In this way, Donnelly’s recent portraits question whether a person’s strengths or weaknesses shape one’s identity.



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