Portrait Painting - Why?

Portrait Painting – Why ?

Let me begin by telling you that I will never have rigid and stable answers to questions about my art. Like everything within and around me that is subject to constant change, I expect my artistic process to evolve and simply be reflective of my current state of being.

While stillness in moments is infinitely refreshing, stillness in a non-evolving, stationary life reeks of stagnation, the kind that I wish for no one. As such I allow for each of my paintings to dictate their own terms for coming alive as best they can.

 In the here and now, I find myself drawn to portrait painting. Something about the clash of lines, the emerging expression, the planes, the movement of mass and color, makes the process extremely satisfying. The gratification that I derive from each completed project makes the struggle worthwhile and addictive.

The most challenging component of my work is finding the subject that can hold my interest and warrant the use of my time.

I’ve been given many suggestions. ‘Why not close friends?’ Perhaps when I find the bond strong enough to handle disappointment and rejection. ‘Why not famous people?’ They pose and have legacies at stake that make them unwilling to let their guard down. ‘Why not beautiful people?’ They are too perfect and I find perfection alienating.

The option then was regular everyday people, often those that I can relate to because of their station, their unhidden vulnerability and their imperfect existence. Among them, I generally find young children and the elderly interesting to paint.  Unconcerned about judgment, either because they are too young to understand or too wise to pay heed, they make ideal subjects who are relaxed and present in the moment.

Very often people pose and not pause for portraiture, be it painting or photography.

In my mind, there is a huge difference in the outcome of the picture as a result of such portrayal.  Posing distinguishes the subject and the viewer as separate entities that simply connect on the periphery of life, whereas pausing provokes reflection, inviting the viewer into the life and mind of the subject, where the commonality of the human condition binds them to each other.

Nature, is supremely beautiful and infinitely healing simply because it is unconscious of itself. To me, beauty in portraiture is simply a moment when the subject is not self-conscious and yet willing and confident enough to be seen. I often look for such frozen bits of information in my subjects that can be highlighted and exposed to the viewer.

I was once told that all reasons for existence is simply made up and as such that which cannot be attributed to personal choice is best left in the decisive hands of the divine universe.  I was also told that since everything is transitory the only thing an artist will ever own is the process of creation.

So I figured, what better way to spend my available moments, than creation?

Vandana Nittoor