UK-based artist Lucy Pass describes herself as a “kind of anti-portrait maker,” which she sort of is. Her work often features vanishing or obscured fragments of faces, sometimes just an eye, nose or mouth, unpicking the idea of portraiture. Sometimes these fragments hang alone in an empty space, sometimes they are anchored with gestural marks, blocks of color or bold outlines.
The focus is still on the subject but the power is in the parts we cannot see. The viewer is therefore invited to fill in the blanks. “I try not to impose a clear cut narrative on the viewer,” she explains on her website. “My aim is to illicit an emotional response without dictating to the viewer what they should or shouldn’t be feeling.”
Her unfinished portraits are drawn or painted, relying on found photos of strangers, with particular focus on ambiguous or, at a glance, neutral expressions. “The unknown subject and therefore his or her unknown emotions have become an important aspect in my work,” she notes, “where I, in turn, find myself instinctively attempting to read the individual – something which gradually becomes apparent in my treatment of the work.”
The finished-yet-unfinished products are perceived differently, depending on the individual viewer, and what one person perceives can be in complete contradiction to the next. Sometimes these reactions can be clearly explained by the individual and other times it is something visceral that can’t quite be placed. “The piece is then no longer about the face looking back at us, but about the feelings that it stirs and what that means about us,” she reflects.
Follow her thought-provoking work via Instagram.