The unconscious intentions and feelings of artists permeate their work. We cannot help but recall the overpowering sense of oppression Rembrandt perfected in his Baroque work, the disdain towards conventional painting techniques that Pollock followed, and the pain and anguish Frida Kahlo immortalized in her work. The ingenuity of Magritte and his ability to change the viewer's perspective was one of his greatest powers and the reason why people flock to exhibitions and museums to admire his work. The ability to spark an emotion or reaction from the viewer is truly the beating heart of art.
Scottish artist Ken Currie, known for his terrifying portraits, has always said, "Paintings can be terrifying in all sorts of ways, but the worst thing is for paintings to be ignored.” Artists from past centuries intended to touch the minds and souls of those who stopped to observe their work; Currie has tried to produce paintings that impact people, not easy images that boast a single aesthetic.
Love, tenderness, joy, sadness, fear, or any emotion can be brought to the surface with just a few brushstrokes on a canvas, but in the case of Currie, it is the terror of mortality that envelops his work like a halo of repulsion and despair. Through chiaroscuro, spine-chilling portraits, and inhospitable expressions, Currie is able to weed out the truly brave from the crowd.
"What was that all about?," "What is that?," "Who are they?," "Why am I looking at this?" are just some of the questions people ask themselves when they look at Currie's work. The themes, colors, and realism convince the viewer they are one step away from falling into a hellish, psychotic abyss. Only the brave can tolerate a full analysis of his work because they risk losing themselves to their darkest thoughts and impulses. His work is indescribable and he strives for this murkiness in meaning. "The minute someone can pin something down, the painting dies a death. It would really upset me if people came out of the exhibition saying ‘I know what all that was about’. They should come out and say: ‘What was all that about?'," he expresses.
Challenging, sarcastic, proud, and a man of few words, this is the mastermind behind these works that have overwhelmed more than one person. Ken Currie began his artistic career in the Art School of Glasgow in 1960, and from that time to this day he has questioned his trajectory every step of the way. His visceral personality has led him to question himself every morning whether he should destroy his work, burn his paintbrushes, shatter his color palettes, and dedicate his life to a different profession. Suddenly, his mind is flooded with an indescribable fear that drives him to pick a paintbrush and start painting again.
In the eighties, Currie formed part of an artistic group called the New Glasgow Boys, but sadly it didn't last long, and many of its members have faded into obscurity. The author of "Monotypes" and "Etching" began to create his own collections, and Flowers was the first work to be exhibited in London and New York. As an independent artist he has mastered oil painting techniques and has become the focal point of a movement only the brave seem to stomach.
Goya's sombre shadows, Bacon's decay, and Velazquez's ingenious perspectives have deeply influenced this troubled artist. While his aesthetic is bold and mysterious, his paintings possess a political or historical symbolism that lashes out against ideologies Currie opposes. These macabre faces exist, not only to scare the public, but also to confuse. The artist does not seek clarity; on the contrary, he wants to disrupt the public's thoughts and tear them away from sanity for a precious few seconds. His mission is to generate doubt, speculation, and controversy through his terrifying work, and only then does it gain a purpose in his eyes.
His inspiration process and artistic technique differs from many other creatives, because Currie has denied to paint physical subjects in front of him. If he needs to reproduce a scene or figure, he must first observe and study it; after a period of time, he sketches it out on a white canvas following his own conception. This is why his work has become an iconic collection of contemporary paintings that are based on physical and metaphorical forms. While he revolves around several themes and emotions, he is always drawn to mankind's mortality.
Immortality was the name of his last collection, which has made an impact in the art world and has defined his career even further. The message behind the pale, amorphous, and bloody faces embodied in his work express that no matter how powerful one may be, no one can escape the clutches of death. This feeling of invincibility is illogical, and this is why Currie dismantles this naive belief and shoves it down our throats: you will never escape death, so don't even bother trying. Instead, face your own mortality head on, no matter how much you are shaking on the inside.