Thursday, May 6, 2021
Home News Social Distortions in Portraits

Social Distortions in Portraits

The Art of Taking Things Personally and Emotionally

Let’s say you are strolling through the collection at a museum. Are you the type of person who takes time to look at the portraits, or are you the type of person who, like the author, walks quickly through them? I find this area rather uncomfortable. The portraits on the walls reminded me of the walls of the principal’s office where I used to be scolded for hours for my innocent misbehavior. Nevertheless, there are certain works that fascinate me as much as the bitter memories, and I can’t help but stop to admire the timeless narratives of the models and artists, and the sense of presence that cannot be ignored.

It seems that I am not the only one who finds the portraits of ordinary people even more interesting and dramatic. For example, “The Girl with the Pearl Earring,” a masterpiece by Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer, inspired Tracy Chevalier to write a novel of the same title that sold over 5 million copies and was even made into a movie. Just as the face of the President of the United States carved into Mount Rushmore is fearless but inaccessible, it is somewhat rare to be charmed by the archetypal privileged class, no matter how beautifully it is depicted.


Joes Wall by James Earley H 68cm x W 48cm x D 4cm
Click here to see more of my work

A good portrait should have the power to lure us into a strange triangle between the model, the artist and the viewer. We don’t have to be afraid of feeling attached to it. Some of
today’s portraits in TRiCERA depict ordinary people, especially those from a distorted social dimension. Are we ready to dive into that distorted dimension? Please fasten your seatbelts. This will be a very private and emotional flight.

The Scream by James Earley H 88cm x W 68cm x D 4cm
Click here for more information about the film.

I hope it screams to you” – James Earley

British-born James Earley is one of the most promising hyperrealist painters working today, having won first prize at the London Biennial 2019. He says he often represents troubled figures to “raise awareness of issues like homelessness, mental health, and war. Surprisingly, his unconventional models give a positive impression of humanity and serenity, far more than the negativity of sadness and exhaustion.

The cry that reaches the so-called “ordinary people” is that there is no difference between these “unfortunate people” and us. We all have problems in life that we want to hide. But in their case, they are only exposed because they don’t have a social costume to cover them. The soles of this man’s feet, which attract the viewer’s attention, symbolize the hardships and stains of life that we are trying so hard to cover up, and evoke in the viewer the awkwardness of being exposed to them.

A conversation between a Syrian boy and a bomb from abroad by James Earley H 98cm x W 68cm x D 4cm
Click here for more information about the work.

When I moved to Vancouver, Canada, known as the most livable city in the world, in 2015, the sight of homeless people saturating the streets was a shock to me. After all, just one block away from a street that bustles with tourists day and night is the largest homeless area in the world. Living among them, I did not suffer any direct harm, but the indirect damage was great. Many of them were young men and women of the same age, and my heart ached every time I walked past them.

Paying rent, food, and expensive tuition fees from my modest savings and part-time job, my life in downtown Tokyo became more and more difficult by the day. I was barely making ends meet when a Canadian friend of the same age told me about her secret past. She told me that she had been in the same situation as me, but had fallen and had been homeless for several months and then stayed in a shelter. To the outside world, she was beautiful and cheerful, but she hid it well under her disguise. After that day, homelessness was no longer someone else’s problem. This realization and fear became a driving force, but ultimately led me to leave downtown.

The Yellow Road by James Earley H 88cm x W 68cm x D 4cm
Click here to read more about the work.

One day, after years of escaping from my miserable reality, a homeless man from Montreal named Jean-Marc asked me to go to that store and buy this for him. Usually he would just ask me for some change, but he was friendly and about the same age as me, so I took him up on his offer. While we walked a few blocks together, he happily told me his personal story. A few nights later, I saw him again on the street and we chatted a bit. I couldn’t do much for him, but sometimes I still wonder how he is doing.

I was moved to tears when I saw Jean-Marc’s embarrassed smile in one of Early’s intimate portraits. I guess the artist must have not only a heart full of empathy and compassion, but also the strength to share and bear their sorrow. It is not charity that can bring out the genuine smiles seen in this painting, but his unvarnished persona. Early perpetuates the momentary joys of reality as art, lighting up lives that are otherwise overlooked.

These are not the only portraits that reflect the distortions of society.

Macrobian Portrait I by Rafa Mata H 56cm x W 56cm x D 0cm
Click here to see more of my work.

In the younger generation, the pressure to be unique (like others) is increasing. They struggle to find themselves between the innate preciousness of their individuality and the socially endorsed popularity of their personality. Rafa Mata aptly points out this contradiction in his art and words.

Self Portrait 3 by Zeng Chao H 53cm x W 46cm x D 4cm
For more information about her work, click here.

Zeng Chao depicts the ideological conflict in contemporary Chinese society as a portrait of a person. He says that one group is influenced by Chinese socialism, while the other is influenced by Taoism, an ancient Chinese philosophy. He dresses the figures in symbolic socialist clothing and replaces their heads with his Taoist-derived motif, the “temporary mountain stone. The contrast of the dynamic brushwork with oil paint is astonishing.

Selfportrait by Ryo Shimizu H 117cm x W 91cm x D 3cm
Click here for details of the work

Is the image reflected in the mirror our own, or is it the image seen by others? The theme of Melody Shimizu is to question the uncertainty of what we see. He says, “We understand and define ourselves by the images others show us. Therefore, the other is a mirror of us. This self-portrait is a mosaic of the various images of ourselves found in the mirrors of various societies.

What the portrait represents may not be as easy to understand as, for example, a landscape painting. However, because of this ambiguity, we are free to read between the lines. What do we feel as viewers? How did the painter interpret the model? And what do we see in the eyes of the model? It is good to enjoy portraits from a personal and emotional point of view.

A colleague of mine wrote another article about portraits. “Why Do People Paint Faces? He also analyzes many other works from a technical point of view. For those who are interested, don’t forget to subscribe to the ArtClip newsletter.

Shinzo Okuokahttps://www.tricera.net/
Born in 1992 in Tokyo, Japan. After studying Indian philosophy at university, she worked at a publishing company as a deputy editor of an art magazine and a shrine magazine, where she was involved in planning and editing magazines and books. 2019 she joined TRiCERA, a start-up company, where she was in charge of developing Japan's first cross-border e-commerce site specializing in contemporary art, managing artists, and launching the company's own on-demand media. He is also in charge of developing Japan's first cross-border e-commerce site specializing in contemporary art, managing artists, and launching the company's own owned media. He is a fast writer, and when he was working for a magazine, he was able to write 150 pages in a month by himself.

Most Popular

You Might Like

Fingertips, paper, and the artist.-The Paper Art Story part 2

Click here for more information about my work. If you haven't read part 1 of the Paper Art series, which explains the uniqueness...

Decomposition and Reintegration of Landscape – Interview with Kosuke Kato

Click here for more information about the artist. Kosuke Kato says, "I decompose the visual information of the landscape and transform it into...

What is art in the age of traveling through the starry sky?

 The history of constellations dates back about 5,000 years. The fact that shepherds in Mesopotamia looked up at the starry sky and connected the...

Izumi Kato’s work at a unique art space in Tokyo

Izumi Kato's solo exhibition "LIKE A ROLLING SNOWBALL" at Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo     Izumi Kato, a world-renowned Japanese artist based in Tokyo and...

The Distance Between the Work and the Artist’s Heart: On the Appeal of Drawings

 The words used to describe art are enormous and the boundaries of definition are unclear.  Drawing and its surrounding words may be a particularly clear...

Don't Miss

A life where art is in harmony with everyday life.

No matter what stage of art collecting you are at, from expert to novice, you are always interested in what other collectors have to...

The Story of “Blue” in Art

The life that we see is incredibly vivid. However, in our daily lives, only artists and designers are conscious of color. Let's take...

The Unique and Fascinating World of Paper Art – Part 1

Did you enjoy crafting with paper as a child? I certainly did! Folding, cutting, gluing, assembling, coloring, and drawing. The possibilities seemed to be...

FALSE SPACES: Asking What is FALSE SPACES?

TOKAS Project Vol.2 "FALSE SPACES     At Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space Hongo TOKAS Hongo, one of the leading art centers in Tokyo, is holding an exhibition....

Feature Post

Yuna Okanishi: Finding Zen in Your Handwriting

"Calligraphy is not just about drawing lines, it's also about the space between the lines." Yuna Okanishi From a young age, Yuna Okanishi was...

It’s about animals for humans or the world for animals.

Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with a Dervish" is a 54.8 cm x 40.3 cm painting of an elegant-looking woman holding a dervish in...

Yukiko Nishimura: Interview with a Japanese Shamanist Calligrapher

"I feel connected to the gods, and I'm focused on expressing the meaning of the characters." Yukiko Nishimura Yukiko Nishimura is an artist, calligrapher,...

Eye-catching works with content and painting methods

Maria Farrar "Too late to turn back now" OTA FINE ARTS Installation view of "Too late to turn back now" (2019) by Maria...

Editor's Choice