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WALKER, Jason

I am a painter who prefers the work to speak for itself. I believe that the relationship between the painting and the viewer is one that benefits from intimacy, without voice-over. It is as Duchamp says: “the viewer completes the work.”

Although photography has taken over many of the duties of contemporary portraiture I obviously prefer the painted subject. To paint the sitter is to have an intense encounter with that image and with art history at the same time. I often work from photographs (as well as from the model) but photography interests me only as aid to memory. I work in oil on linen and have chosen to concentrate on the single figure. I invest each image with significant detail and try to achieve not simply a physical likeness but also to unveil a psychological truth: to show a state of being in the world. I paint actual, living people in a high realist manner because I am not interested in the illusions of the classical or idealized figure. In a culture so concerned with celebrity, with youth and with perfection, to be elderly, anonymous, handicapped, marginalized or less than perfect often means invisibility. But such people are often the subject of my work. I try to convey the complexity of lived experience by depicting a full range of the human spectrum. In that regard the sitter becomes exalted by the scrutiny of the artist’s gaze, by the act of being painted. He or she is given sustained attention where in everyday life they may be often overlooked. In that sense my work also refers to the richness of art history itself. Such artists as Diego Velasquez and his The Dwarf Sebastian de Morra inform my work. Or Caravaggio whose works such as The Incredulity of Saint Thomas are the very embodiment of shadow and light on flesh. Or the unsparing portraits of ordinary people in ordinary settings by Lucien Freud. It is with all this in mind that I try to paint the subject before me.

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