M in Templehof

M in Templehof

I've started a new portraits project for the Summer and recruited my friends to pose for me. The rough idea is to capture my generation, fellow young professionals, the ubiquitous Millennials, as they navigate their unconventional, changing lives.

I will be using different media and style for each one, trying to depict their inner state as I go. My process so far is to sit for half an hour to full hour with each one of them and sketch them as we talk as usual. Then I take a lot of photos and see where the process take me later as I work alone.

First to portrait is my oldest friend, one I don’t remember not knowing. I've anticipated the challenge of drawing a face you know well by using a difficult medium for me, so I would concentrate on the form instead of memory. As one does in Berlin, we took a walk in Templehofer Feld, a decommissioned airport in the neighbourhood of Neükolln. I sketched her there in charcoal as we sat in the field, among urban gardens and flower patches, thick Spring clouds sprawling above us. As I worked in negative from a medium tone, I've traced the shapes of light on the face, adding characteristic details at the end.

I've tested what would it be like if I used hectic movements in graphite to show inner state of a sitter. Visiting my friend shortly after a family loss, I'm recognising the unrest of grief. There is an hesitation to the drawing that I'm going to use in the final work.

I've decided I want to show the Springtime colouring of the scene. When I took to pastels, the density made movements get lost with layers, but I liked the overall effect as it got murkier. I've sprayed the work several times with fixative so I could add more and more layers.

With clouds I did larger, less controlled marks. The only thing I wanted smooth and carefully done was the hair. Hair and grief are tied together in so many cultures around the world, somehow especially for women. There is a memory quality to our hair. When I lost my father, I cut my hair the shortest it's ever been, wanting to shed past and move forward as quickly as possible. I notice we tend to keep a nostalgic hold to our memories as we get older. Keeping my marks strong and steady in just this one part, smoothing over the surface, I am trying to contrast the luminous quality of memory over everything else.

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