Portfolio / Dialogues

A painted portrait from direct observation is always human and individual, personal and relational. It is the visible result of a process of interaction, a willing collaboration of open enquiry into the nature of paint as a medium and process as well as the subject of that enquiry which is a person and their face as seen through the eyes of the painter. It must be based on the proximity, physical and psychological, between two people, the artist and the sitter.

As each sitting progresses with its multiple interactions, observations, perceptions, judgments and actions, the image of the sitter grows organically and the marks and gestures on the surface of the canvas constantly change as the accumulative layering of information is revised and edited to give verity and depth to both the surface appearance and deeper character of the model.

The painting is as much a subjective reflection of the artist’s state of mind, and technical, visual, psychological perception and understanding as it is a relatively objective assessment and recording of something of the model’s inner and outer realities, that a third party might recognise and endorse. If the model is the painter’s ‘mirror’ in this way then each painting is, in a sense, an autographic self-portrait. The persona that is revealed through the painting is therefore a complex one that cannot be separated from the context of the relationship that gives rise to it.

It is for this reason that I have called this portrait project ‘dialogues’ to emphasis the creative collaboration between the artist and model and the interpersonal relationships at the centre of this process of looking into appearance and reality, and exterior and interior presence, which is the core of our identity, sense of self and other, being and not being. I am particularly interested in drawing parallels between painting and language, which is one of the reasons that I have called this project, ‘dialogues’. Pierre Hadot, professor Emeritus of the History of Hellenistic and Roman Thought at the Collage de France has said in his book, Philosophy as a way of life’, translated by Michael Chase;

‘…to philosophise is to learn how to dialogue. A Socratic dialogue is a spiritual exercise practised in common and it incites one to give attention to oneself, to take care of oneself, to know oneself. The Socratic maxim, “know thyself” requires a relation of the self to itself that “constitutes the basis of all spiritual exercises “ Every spiritual exercise is a dialogue insofar as it is an “exercise of authentic presence” of the self to itself, and of the self to others.
The Socratic and Platonic dialogues exhibit this authentic presence in the way that they show that what is most important is not the solution to a particular problem, but the path traversed together in arriving at this solution.’

I hope these paintings in some way represent the ‘exercise of authentic presence of the self to itself and of the self to others’. Thanks to the models who ‘traversed this path’ together in what continues to be a work in progress.

Metamorphoses Paintings & Drawings. All work featured in this portfolio is created by and © Alan Mitchell 2009. Website created by Op45.