Today I’m very happy to share the work of Amsterdam-based artist Degann (Anne de Groot) who has begun a new series of abstracted portrait paintings in acrylic and oil. Related in technique yet departing a bit in style and theme from her previous work, Degann’s new work emphasizes the head, rather than the face of the portrait, signaling a departure from the face as a focal point, and instead emphasizing the entire part of the body which contains the brain, and thus, the mind.
First, I was drawn to Degann’s use of color, which is rich and full of contrast, at first minimal and simple, yet revealing subtle changes the longer we look. And I particularly enjoy how the eyes, empty and dark though they are, appear to bloom with the wash of the paint, suggesting a movement from inside to outside. Sometimes the heads cast shadows, except they are not shadows so much as insinuations of a second self — an inner self made outward, constantly changing shape in front of us.
I was curious about why she has chosen painting as a medium, and how this work is representative of her practice currently. In a way, her process is a cyclical one, as it allows her to express how she views the world, which then allows her to understand her work better. She explains, “I create to expose what lies beyond the surface. Sharing my work enables me to project my vision of the world around me on those that inhabit that world. Their eyes looking through my eyes.”
One thing I noted right away was a resemblance to the style of Francis Bacon, whose work has been an influence. Some other influences are artists such as Luc Tuymans, Egon Schiele, Jenny Saville, Lucian Freud, and David Hockney. “In my portraits I do not paint faces, but heads,” Degann says, “which for me creates a different sense of intimacy. I see the face as a structured spatial order covering the head, which houses the soul. These painters are inspired by heads or figures as well. I like to see how they play with figures and heads over the years.”
And her biggest challenge so far, creatively? That’s in how to capture the abstract concept of a feeling. “I seek to let go of the aesthetic values tied to representation. I care about approaching the essence of a feeling. I seek to represent the people and objects around us not as they appear, but by the feeling that is embedded in them, and which reaches me when I closely observe them. I aim to represent a world in which I can find and understand myself, and therefore also those around me. Yet I do believe that it will never be possible to fully understand both yourself and others. It is the mystery that humanity bears.”
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