Often, when I begin a new painting, I ask myself- reflecting on my subject, whether it be a model or a portrait subject- ‘what binds us?’ What is the dynamic link between us? – a link either residing intimately within the artist and finding its reflection in the model or an empathy that lies between individuals, both sharing an experience or interaction in the present. Identifying this element is critical. It is not something that can be added at a later time? The vitality of this initial interaction between souls must be in the initial stages of developing the image.
Artists of the renaissance referred to this initial vitality as furia. They felt there was a correlation between the movement of the body and the movement of the soul. One could not create something that had life unless it contained furia. And in order to have furia one needed to feel deeply, to have an intimate understanding of one’s subject. There needed to be a dynamic relationship that was seeking form. How do I view the model before me? Is he or she just something I observe in a passive manner? Or is she a reflection of myself? Or is she an engaging individual in her own right? These questions are critical to shaping the image. It reveals acutely who one is and how one views the world.
The artist needs to be more than a passive observer. He must have an intentionality that is deep and forthright. For myself, the model is a dynamic self-reflection specific to myself yet containing an aspect that is universal and shared between myself and the subject. There is the specificity of the individual linked or bound to the universal. There is a duality. It is me and yet not me. There is also something of the other, the individual, creating a relationship that goes beyond this specific moment that we share and binding us to the larger world. This charged interaction lives through the image revealing something hidden from both sides. The artist and the model share this in such a way that opens a lacuna for another to enter – that being the viewer at some future date. This correlation between my empathy toward my subject and the inherent vitality of the image cannot be denied. It is this inner movement that carries the image beyond the desires of the artist and gives to the image an efficacy in the world.