Are you looking at me?
I would like to bring these two striking self portraits to the attention of OCA Exploring Concepts students and others. They are the result of an extended period of research into constructivism and its implications or possibilities for his own practice by student Christopher Dennis.
Level 2 is a particularly eventful level to teach at OCA and possibly my favourite. At level 1 time seems a benevolent and distant mistress, by level 3 students have a sense that they have arrived somewhere and freedom beckons them hither. Level two by contrast can feel like open heart surgery using everyday items found around the home. There are phrases about things roosting or hitting fans that are applicable, but also a sense of ferment and lava under the surface breaking through.
Christopher is a very engaged and committed artist and student, and we have had several meaty exchanges about the function of art education and art itself. I think perhaps he might have been a bit cross with me at times as we wrestled with the course contents and these self portraits, when I unwrapped them, seemed to hold something of that in their imperious gaze as they stood in my living room. Christopher is passionate, but also a good listener and open to learning which is vital, and these paintings are him responding to an assignment report and reworking a submission to make sure that he picked up the learning required.
The main reason I wanted to share them, quite apart from their military portrait vibe which I thought made a nice riposte to the dazzling insecurities of HE learning, is the way that Christopher has so fully incorporated his study of constructivism into his own practice (which was a softer form of naturalistic figuration) and made something which has wholly benefited his practice rather than a one off pastiche soon to be forgotten. He has met the course halfway, been intelligent and sensitive about what he has taken from the new learning, and given it all space and time to filter and make sense.