As a figurative artist, I strive to engage with portraiture at a number of levels as I am passionate about and intrigued by the conceptualization of representation. I aim to explore the politics of who has been represented in portraiture throughout history, how, as an artist, I seek to represent myself in the completed work, and how the representation of the subject beyond their physical identity can transpire.
By looking at portraiture from a different light we have the opportunity to depict groups of people typically excluded from historical figurative art. Sculptures and portraits disproportionately represent white men who have committed violent acts. Consequently, it can be difficult to transcend the baggage of neo-classical portraiture. Even when portraying alternative subjects, if their physical appearance is close to that of a traditional archetype much of the impact is lost. To continue off my previous series, I want to commemorate a more complete range of the human experience. In my new work, I plan to represent, and thus elevate women, and other less-represented groups through portrayal in these mediums.
Additionally, my work is concerned with the process of creating. I strive to preserve the integrity of the initial marks in my work as they provide a window into the movement of the tool through the medium - a record of my first impression of the subject. By working in a gestural fashion, the immediacy of the strokes effectively captures the essence of a person, rather than simply replicating the surface of the face. By limiting my refinements through the process, I endeavor to both transcend the material and revel in it; clay worked in this style can convey both the softness of flesh yet maintain the gritty, unapologetic quality of raw earth. This unrestricted application of marks helps to modernize the subject, distancing it from the highly polished tropes of portraiture seen throughout history.
My desire to explore representation through emotional portraiture comes from a struggle with body-image issues. As someone who has difficulty recognizing themselves in the mirror and in photographs, I have a complicated relationship with my own physical identity. As a result, I hope to capture people beyond their physical traits. Through my experiences as an artist, one of the greatest joys of my practice is experiencing the particular moment when a subject first sees themselves in the work. Although somewhat cliché, I believe that portraiture, whether sculpted, painted, or drawn, has the potential to capture a person more completely than a photo, or other direct means of representation.
Maud Madsen is a representational artist from Edmonton, Alberta. She recently graduated from the University of Alberta's Bachelor of Fine Arts program, where she specialized in figurative painting and sculpture.