It always seems that older people have a lot to say to younger people about what has happened in the past, but our busy lives and schedules get in the way and we don’t always have the time to listen to their stories. This project was a way for me to paint the portraits of grandparents as they told me their life stories. I then display the audio behind the canvas amongst other talking portraits. The voice is intended to draw the viewer in closer; a change from the common distance one normally views a painting. The story being told is not that of riches and celebration, but of sorrow and tragedy. I think portrait painting has the potential to unlock contradictory notions of who we are as people and how we judge stereotypes. The portraits of the Listen (I’m Still Here) series, though consisting of seemingly aged and fragile characters, shines light on something more than just an old soul trapped in a dying body. Their eyes hold a sort of blankness as if to reflect upon one’s self and simultaneously look off into a distant, intangible past. Still, the portraits command strength in the past they hold and the present they currently survive in. These paintings are meant to convey a sense of wisdom and uncertainty, power and vulnerability; they are to exhibit a sense of purpose while at the same time showing a longing for significance. In this case, the portraits’ representation of “life” does not rely on the strength of the brush strokes or the technology behind the canvas, but the suggestions of life are only as powerful as the connections they command with the viewer in front of them. I am giving these people a form of immortality by giving their portraits an audience, to not only observe but also to listen, analyse and reflect upon what is being presented and how it affects the experience of looking at a portrait. The event of an audience is both the purpose and the success of this work.
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