Dylan John Lisle, storytelling through art

When asked to write these things I always start to panic. I suppose that many artists have difficulty when expressing their modi opporandi. The question is often, too simply, answered with an enigmatic shrug of the shoulders. Is it the case that once you have defined yourself you will then be working within the constraints of this definition and find it difficult to change?

My work begins with the observation of light and shadow on the model. An admiration of figurative art from the 15-1600s leads me to favour dramatic chiaroscuro lighting and the inclusion of areas of drapery. This choice of lighting lends itself particularly well to dark and moody paintings. I further enhance this atmosphere by closely cropping the figures within the picture plane. This, I feel, creates an intimacy and intense focus on the figure. The areas surrounding the figure are often flat and simply abstracted. This is both a compositional device and an attempt to avoid complex narrative and maintain a sense of timelessness.

Although I am not keen to make “storytelling” narrative paintings, I do sometimes select poses or compositions that suggest a certain myth or notion. I have previously made allusions to the Icarus myth and the mythological Gemini twins but have refrained from any obvious allegory. I prefer to present an ambiguity which can then be interpreted more personally by the viewer.

As well as an interest in the making of images, I am intensely driven by the technical aspects of painting and drawing. Once a pose has been chosen, I will investigate the anatomical challenges presented within the figure. Many sketches of muscle groups will be made using photographic reference and anatomy books. Once I have a good working knowledge of the construction of the chosen figure I will, with lighting in mind, decide on a painting technique that will represent the model most favorably. The majority of my work uses a combination of techniques appropriated from artists that I admire. These include Vermeer and Van Eyck’s monochromatic underpainting and glazing, Caravaggio’s complex layering and the venetian technique further developed by Titian. The various combinations of these techniques produce images that are more than just flat images. They are built rather than simply painted.

I hope to create paintings that challenge the viewers existing opinions of the paintings of the masters and that of contemporary figurative artists.
Dylan John Lisle
Feb 27, 2011

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