The Artist's Gaze: Nick Ward
What compels you to the specific women you choose to paint? and When do you know you have made a significant connection to your subject and what does that feel or look like from your perspective?
I am going to approach these two question in tandem, because I think the answers play into each other.
A majority of the people I paint are close friends who have volunteered so, I would say that a significant connection with the subject is more of a pre-requisite, rather than something that is occurring during the process of painting. These are people that I already know are interesting and, there is already a level of trust established that makes the whole process a lot more rewarding for everyone involved. Since the paintings are all based in portraiture, I do tend to prefer people with strong, interesting, or expressive features but, I am mostly trying to find people who are interested and excited to be a part of the process.
Beyond that, I have found that more experienced models do not give me what I am looking for. They tend to be too good at the job, knowing exactly how to deliver a pose or emotion, which lacks some of the honesty that the situation brings out of someone less experienced.
What is it about your personal journey that has brought your gaze to focus so deeply on women.
I am not sure I have a really good answer for this. I have always been fortunate enough to have a lot of really interesting women in my life so, obviously that has played into it. Like I said, I am relying on the helpful people in my life volunteering themselves to become the subjects of these paintings. A lot of the choices are being made for me based on who is interested in playing a role in these stories that the paintings want to tell. The fact that women are a lot more comfortable and willing to take on this role probably says a lot more about society in general than it does about my personal journey.
Why this visual dialogue? What do you hope to accomplish through your work?
I really hope that the paintings are interesting and can communicate some interesting stories in a way that is accessible to a lot of different people. I love portraiture because EVERYONE is so used to analyzing faces. It is hard wired into us through generations of evolution so, even people that have no art knowledge, can really get something out of the paintings and have a strong reaction. At the same time, I try to bring a lot of subtle messages and painting technique into the pieces so that, hopefully there is still a lot there for people who know a bit more art history and want to look a little more deeply. I really feel like there are not enough artists trying to bridge the gap between intellectual work, and just more simple beautiful visuals so, I am trying to do what I can to put my money where my mouth is and make something that fits into that space.
Tell us about your current series or work and how it may be different from the work submitted for the show.
I have talked a lot about really wanting to use models that I know and am familiar with but, the next series of paintings is going in a completely different direction. I am not entirely sure if this is going to work yet, it may be a terrible idea for a series of paintings but, I will lay it out here for everyone today anyway (a scary prospect).
Since there seems to be an endless supply of scandals as peoples most personal images are being stolen from their cell phones or cloud accounts, and more and more common for private moments to live in public, online forever, I thought this would be an interesting subject to play with. So, I put out a call for images. Instead of turning to my usual models, I invited strangers to send me, via text or email, an image. I asked them to send me an image that mimics the sort of image they would send a lover, except it should be cropped to not entirely reveal their face. After selecting the best images, I did everything I could think of to degrade the digital image files. I wanted to simulate the corruptions and distortions that digital images take on when they are widely shared and saved repeatedly. Now, I am taking these images and adding one final level of distortion, by translating them into paintings.
Once these paintings are complete, I will have the models come in to the studio, and sit for a more traditional portrait that will, obviously, reveal their faces and their identity.
Hopefully these two panels will be an interesting contrast when hung next to each other. The paintings are not far enough along to share yet but, they will be soon!