This painting started with the figure of a woman. Once I had drawn and blocked it in I meditated on what the image of this woman evoked in me.

The more I looked at the image, the more I began to wonder if I was looking at the woman from the correct side. Was she showing me her back, or was she baring herself to some unidentified group in front? Was I witnessing something from backstage, as it were.

Work in progress - John Dalton

I began to consider the viewer and the viewed. I paid particular attention to my eyes, and where they went as I looked at the image. I noticed I was primarily fixated on her partially revealed breast. I could feel my head inclining to the left as I subconsciously tried to look-around-the-corner to see the rest of her breast. When I wasn’t doing that I was looking at her face.

This observation led me to create the purple forms as a visual representation for my looking. They represent for me the visual dismemberment of women into fixated parts.

As I continued creating the painting I tried to build in as much of the ambiguity that exists between the viewer and the viewed, the voyeur and the exhibitionist.

Is the purple shape at her face sucking the life force out of her, or she leaning into it, as if talking to a loved one?

Is she holding her hand behind her back to push her breasts out further giving better access to the purple scrutineers, or is she holding her hand firmly behind her back to restrain herself from swatting them away? Are her fingers ever so slightly digging into the flesh of her hip?

I explored the ideas of facade and the real self through my approach to the application of the paint. As we travel from the back of the painting to the front the brushwork is more obvious and less finished. This alludes to the what the Taoists call, “the uncarved block,” the idea that in our essence we are in an unending state of becoming.

Scrutiny by John Dalton

Scrutiny by John Dalton
100 x 100 cms. Oil on canvas

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