A mask is a face removed from a state of personal ownership into an object of public transferable identity.
A mask is an assumable face; static and dependable without change or ambiguity. While contemplating the subject of the human face and facial recall I started painting the MASKbook series which included more than 75 images. They were produced at a rate of one a day using the excess paint on my palette while I was cleaning up in the evening. This accounts for some of the colors not usually found in a portrait. The formal issues of painting the face were carefully investigated and reduced to basic head shape, eyes, nose and mouth; the metrics relied upon for analysis by facial recognition software. [see Additional notes below] There are facial features/elements that are familiar to me randomly embedded across the series, recalled from observing faces over time and sourced from my sub-conscience. I have the opposite condition of prosopagnosia and remember faces well. The series produced some peculiar and awkward faces that only the artist could love.
The more recent MASKbook paintings have the edges of the face flattened and extended out to the edge of the support. This evolved as an investigation into the tension between the oval rounded dimensional qualities of a head and the two dimensional surface, and produces a facial disintegration through distributed features.
The dialectic of surface and detail plays into another dynamic situation: the relationship between the viewer and the painting. With the edge flatness and rectangular format the focus is primarily on the eyes in the painting. Eye to eye contact in a brief stare-down. The painted eyes do not exactly match and the off centered averting gaze causes the viewer to constantly try to at least make contact with one of the rough eyes in the painting. Sometimes this produces a dynamic interchange.
In the mask portraits the mouth is closed and mute almost on the verge of speaking but holding back the true thought or comment or reflection. The viewer of the art work is probably mimicking the same facial positing of their lips since commenting on a work of art especially in white walled gallery is not acceptable or done often.
Humans always are attracted to images representing other humans. They are known from observational behavioral studies to mimic what they observe as a way of empathic response or sign of connection, belonging or affinity. There is also the critical judgment that comes into play: the ranking and establishment of position and social rank.
"People who work in computer animation and robotics often use the term “uncanny valley” to describe a peculiar gulf in human responses to their work. For example, if you create an animation or a robotic object that appears too realistic, viewers reject it. Make one that’s more obviously fake and they accept it, “flaws” notwithstanding.”-
Jim Campbell, engineer /artist from Square Cylinder review.
Additional notes: MASKbook series
This project began as an outgrowth of a series of PURE paintings consisting of simple color blocks on linen. While processing photographs of the paintings on the computer there was a constant prompting by the photo editing program to identify “faces” using the embedded facial recognition software. If there was an indication of facial elements in the arrangement of the blocks of color that was suggestive to a computer are they also clues for humans to perceive at a sub-conscience or gestalt level and form a bond or familiarity with the non-representational art work?
In doing cursory research on the topic of human to human facial recognition it is interesting to discover how much brain activity is required to learn and maintain facial knowledge and recall. An infant will stare for uncomfortably long periods of time to learn a face. The evolving blurred vision is a factor in the focused stare but the infant is absorbing facial aura along with facial features and character marks. Additional investigation into how facial recognition software synthesizes the metrics of a face and applies it through an extensive time consuming and data intensive algorithmic operation the appreciation of the difficult task that an infant attempts immediately after recovering from the trauma of birth.
Becoming aware that there was a potential for the PURE color block painting to project the essence of human facial presence (aura) was something I immediately wanted to investigate in my paintings; determining which combination of color shape, feature arrangement or form evokes a human essence. I have experienced an awareness of advanced pattern recognition abilities all my life but codifying and being able to instill meaningful and a consistent auric response in paintings was different and challenging.
My visual experience has always been internal, incidental and sub-conscience until I analyze it and bring it into my fore-conscience through drawing and painting.