The artwork on this page features fascinating and colorful large-scale portraits by five artists. Each artist uses his or her own special techniques and materials to explore themes of identity (To view any of the photos at a higher resolution, click on the image).
1. Lita Cabellut
Lita Cabellut, a Spanish artist of Romani ancestry, specializes in large-scale portraits (though she is involved in a wide range of creative endeavors such as photography, poetry and video). In her portraits, she strives to obtain a realistic, almost luminous skin tone via the use of carefully selected media and pigments (Artist’s website: www.litacabellut.com).
In her coral series of portraits, the canvas is pockmarked with tiny holes, bringing to mind coral skeletons. In Coral Flowers 05 (shown above), the vibrantly colored explosion of hair is like the living coral covering the surface of the reef. In a coral reef, the living coral organisms are anchored to the framework of the reef, a framework built of coral skeletons. Similarly, for humans, we live for ourselves but are still anchored to the culture, heritage and genes of our ancestors. We live in a present built upon the framework of the past.
Video: How Lita Cabellut grew from street child to an internationally renowned artist (by the Economist)
Mini-bio: Spanish Artist Lita Cabellut was born in 1961 in Sariñena, a village in Aragon. Left in the care of her grandmother, she had a rough and tumble childhood on the streets of Barcelona. When she was 12, she was adopted by a Catalan family. As a teen, she developed an interest in art after seeing the paintings of Goya, Velázquez, Ribera and Rembrandt in the Prado Museum. She later studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam before becoming a full-time artist.
The human face is a favorite subject of Hopare, a Paris-based street artist. Rather than going for a strictly realistic style, Hopare uses bold colors to evoke emotions and moods and superimposes geometric lines and curves on the faces. In the untitled painting shown here, the bold black lines and curves bring out the natural geometry of the subject’s facial structure and are also reminiscent of Maori tattoos (known as moko), which represent the identity and history of the wearer (Artist’s website: www.hopare.com)
Hopare came to Hong Kong to participate in a street art event hosted by HK Walls in 2015 and created the piece shown below.
Mini-bio: Street artist Alexandre Monteiro (aka Hopare) was born in 1989 in Limours, France to Portuguese parents. When he was 12 year old, he discovered street art after noticing the graffiti-covered walls of a factory. He soon started doing his own graffiti, and this interest was encouraged by his art teacher in junior high school, who just happened to be a well-known street artist known as Shaka. Hopare later worked in an interior design firm before becoming a full-time artist.
Video: Live Painting Hopare & Live Music
3. JM Robert
In these three portraits, Jean-Maxime Robert overlays stencilled and sketched female faces on vibrant graffiti-inspired abstract splashes of color. He is interested in evoking not only the visual flair of street art, but also the building surfaces on which such works are painted. He states:
The damaged walls of the houses and buildings fascinate me. I always feel the thrill in front of deteriorated and degraded walls—this is my main source of inspiration. In my paintings, I try to develop the my own aesthetic design of ruins. I want my paintings to speak a contemporary language that reflects the history and and story of our cities. (Exhibition notes from Art Supermarket).
JM Robert’s painting process involves:
- The surface of the canvas is scratched and scraped to give it a texture more akin to a degraded concrete wall.
- The colorful abstract background is painted on the canvas.
- The face is hand-drawn in black on top of the background. Only the outline of the face, the hair and a few shadows are added. This style mimics the look of stenciled graffiti and also gives the portrait a transient, ghostly feel as if the image of the face is just a faint memory.
Mini-bio: French artist JM Robert was born in Macon, Burgundy in 1987. He was interested in painting at a very young age and studied art and decoration at the Beaux-Arts School in Paris and graphic design and décor at the Métiers d'Art in Paris.
4. Gian Piero Gasparini
Italian artist Gian Piero Gasparini frequently works with mosaics of painted cloth. Gasparini is fascinated with the relationship between personality and outward appearance and the way the two react to form one’s identify. His use of mosaic reflects this preoccupation. Our identity is composed of different personality traits and of different physical characteristics (e.g., skin color, hair color, facial structure, etc.). Like pieces in a mosaic, these traits and characteristics bear no meaning when viewed in isolation, but when stitched together they combine to form the fabric of one’s identity (Artist’s website: gianpierogasparini.com).
Mini-bio: Italian artist Gian Piero Gasparini was born in Milan in 1969. He studied Illustration Techniques at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan. Early in his career, his style was mainly hyperrealist and he worked with architectural and design firms to produce large-scale air-brush murals. He started working as an independent artist in 2004.
5. Douglas Coupland
Canadian author and artist Douglas Coupland often works with mixed media installations, but has also created this Pop Head series. The photo prints are done in the style of high school year book photos, but the subject’s faces have been covered by brightly colored paint. The paint serves two purposes:
- It masks the subject’s face, making him/her anonymous, thus allowing the subjects to represent any and every teenager.
- It reflects the messiness and dynamism of each subject’s still-evolving developing identity.
Mini-bio: Canadian writer and artist Douglas Coupland was born at Royal Canadian Air Force Base Baden-Söllingen, West Germany in 1961. He grew up in West Vancouver and briefly studied Physics at McGill University in Montreal before returning to Vancouver to study art. He studied at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, the European Design Institute in Milan and the Hokkaido College of Art & Design in Sapporo. He began his career as a designer in Japan, but after returning to North America, he wrote the book which launched his literary career: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. During the 1990s, he focused on his writing career, but started working on visual arts projects again in 2000.
6. Iqi Qoror
The above self-portrait by Indonesian artist Iqi Qoror is similar to the Douglas Coupland’s Pop Head series paintings in that the face of the subject has been completely masked with a brightly-colored abstract pattern. The are several differences, however. In Iqi Qoror’s painting:
- The subject in the painting is the artist himself.
- The abstract pattern is created from wool (rather than the the dripping paint of Coupland’s portraits).
- The background is not as plain and contains shadows and props.
- There is a much starker contrast between the rest of the painting (with its dull and dark blues and grays) and the vividly-colored mask.
The last difference seems important. Besides hiding the artist’s identity, the wool ‘mask’ can represent the role of art and the imagination in adding color to a mundane existence.
Mini-bio: Indonesian artist Iqi Qoror was born in in 1984 Yogyakarta). He studied November Industrial Design at the Institute Of Technology (ITS) in Surabaya After graduating he began his professional career as a visual artist. To further develop his skills, he studies Fine Art at the Indonesia Institute of The Arts in Yogyakarta.
- Lita Cabellut (artist’s website): www.litacabellut.com
- Hopare (artist’s website): www.hopare.com
- JM Robert (artist’s website): jm-robert.com
- Gian Piero Gasparini (artist’s website): gianpierogasparini.com
- Douglas Coupland (artist’s website): www.coupland.com
- Iqi Qoror (artist’s page at the Art Front Gallery site): artfront.com.sg/iqi-qoror-page/
Each of the artists added something extra to the model—a coral hairdo, geometric lines, translucent circles, so the three questions this time are related to the effect that this has in each painting.
- How would you interpret the huge coral hairdo in Lita Cabellut’s painting?
- How would you interpret the black geometric markings in Hopare’s painting?
- How would you interpret the vivid, abstract splashes of color in JM Robert’s portraits?
- How would you interpret the translucent circles in Gian Piero Gasparini’s painting?
- In Douglas Coupland’s Pop Head series, how would you interpret the ‘dripping’ appearance of the paint?
- In Iqi Qoror’s painting, how would you interpret the colorful wool ‘mask’? Why do you think the artist used wool instead of paint?
Draw or paint a protrait and add something colorful to the model’s hair or face. Explain what you added and why.
Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists