• Matt Herriot

A Brief Explanation for 'Kai'


‘Kai’ Oil on canvas 48” x 48” November 2018 Similar to other portraits of mine, ‘Kai’ is pictured square-on and cropped at the forehead. The awkward framing gives the illusion that you are at eye-level with the subject, therefore encouraging your gaze to meet theirs. As you engage with the subject, the aim of the portrait is for the viewer to ask themselves who the subject is. I kept enough detail in the facial features to prompt this question, but there is deliberate ambiguity to the subject's gaze so that you’ll never quite know. Further, given that ‘Kai’ is a gender neutral name, the viewer is urged to consider whether the subject is a boy or a girl, and whether that matters when viewing the piece. The portrait is divided into two sections: subtle skin tones and refined brushwork near the centre, and bright colours and expressive brushwork elsewhere. The two aesthetics reflect different versions of the subject - online and offline. When we post online, we put our best foot forward. Hence the online versions of ourselves become more polished and perfected than who we truly are in real life. The loose brushwork outside of the rectangular area could reflect the aspects of the subject’s true personality that he or she is holding back from her curated online image. Part of the reason I’m drawn to this bold style could be due to my background. Before watching West Ham play football each week, I would visit a nearby brewery in Hackney, which is the area of London with the highest proportion of graffiti artists in its population. The inclusion of bright colours and drips in my artwork may have been influenced by seeing the flood of graffiti on the streets of Hackney. In my last post I outlined the widespread viewpoint of artists and professors at Yale on how to be a good artist, and how that process of applying meaning to every aspect of a piece can restrict creativity. Then, in this post, I seemingly accounted for many of my creative decisions by providing explanations for them. I did this to show that the meaning behind a painting can enrich its value, but the value of art isn’t necessarily dependent on the artist's justification for the piece. In my opinion, brilliant painters see things in the world that inspire them and they paint them. Sometimes artists can verbalise why they were motivated to paint what they did, and other times they can’t. Sometimes I’m drawn to a particular work of art due to the aspects of it that can’t be explained - it has a mysterious quality that keeps me wondering.

Copyright © 2020 Matt Herriot