DONNA SMULLEN


"My work moves across disciplines, using the practices of drawing, painting, and a primitive form of printing-making.

Portraiture as a genre can be quite subjective as an art form. In contrast to this, I believe the portraits I have created possess a universality or ‘otherness’, that gives the images a powerfully ethereal and liminal quality.

Some of the images I use are appropriated from the Masters, some are taken from photographs of family and friends. But they all have the appearance of being relics, as if they have traveled across time to be with us. They subvert the traditional genre of portraiture, so that we are no longer the scrutinizers, but the scrutinized.

The sublime skill of the portraitists that have gone before us, their ability to capture something other than a mere likeness, gives their images a vibrant depth. There is a power that is enhanced by the aging process, which is further intensified by the veneration we confer upon the artwork, so that in one sense, it becomes something else.

The concept of time and its effect on us and our surroundings has contributed to the making of most of my work. There is an excavational quality to the creation of the pieces. The portraits start out as finely detailed drawings of the subject's face. I then use a mark-making process of subtraction and addition, with layers of paint and graphite, ultimately removing some of the stratum to reveal the final image.

Much as nature and the elements leave their mark upon all things over time, this practice of addition and erasure bestows upon each piece a literal and metaphorical depth."

Sydney based artist, Donna Smullen, in her studio.