Self-Portrait Head, 2012
charcoal, pigment and acrylic on canvas
48 3/8 x 42 1/8 inches
123 x 107 cm
123 x 107 cm
Los Angeles, California, L.A. Louver Gallery, Tony Bevan: Recent Paintings, 6 September - 6 October 2012
DescriptionTony Bevan's fascination with portraiture can be traced back to his student days when he first came across the highly expressive 'character heads' of the Baroque German sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736-1783). Since the 1990s Bevan has pursued the subject of the human head obsessively.
In Self-Portrait Head, 2012, the monumental head is entirely dislocated from the body, isolated against a white ground. Bevan often uses portraiture to express the isolation of human experience, and many of his paintings show a single figure (most often Bevan himself) with gaze averted, adding to the sense of emotional detachment.
Bevan's self-portraits convey a powerful, subjective experience, which link back to the paintings of Francis Bacon and Egon Schiele. He combines a strong graphic style with a range of more painterly approaches in order to describe the exterior character of the body and to suggest the flesh and bone beneath. In Self-Portrait Head, 2012, the red 'flow lines' that cut violently across the face, expose the physiological workings beneath the skin's surface. These raw, broken lines emphasise the interior life of the subject, but at the same time present the viewer with an increasingly abstract conception of the portrait. They are not fluid, but graphic, and significant for their formal value, providing reference points that structure the composition.
Like Jackson Pollock, Bevan works horizontally, a decision which means that he must crawl over the surface of his paintings, leaving behind traces of his own presence, creating, in his own words, 'body prints'. Yet these disruptions to the surface only serve to expose the materiality of the marked and textured canvas. The deeply inscribed charcoal lines and thickly applied paint, while describing form, simultaneously assert their own physicality, encouraging a deeply visceral experience of the painting.