Standard Sized

‘The mid-grey tone of photography is calibrated to be like an average Caucasian skin … and it’s really problematic.’

‘Technology operates on averages … people are not average.’

I used two types of watercolour paper for this entire series, Saunders Waterford and Fabriano Artistico, both of which come in packs cut to 22 x 30 inches (559 x 762 mm). I also used rolls from which I can cut the size I want. Depending on the amount of time we have for a sitting, I usually start by using one of the standard sheets for the first portrait.

Intuitively with the standard sized paper I tend to paint the sitter’s head a little larger than life size.

I always stand when I’m painting and feel most in tune when I’m working larger, moving my arm rather than my wrist, stretching or crouching, walking back and forth to see the detail and the whole picture.

I wonder what happens to the sense of self when people are represented in a consistent format, for instance, in photos of people arrested by the police, or passport photos? Both the repetition and the format reinforce the representation of subjects for a single purpose – identification, and, in that purpose, paradoxically, appear to eliminate the possibility for self-actuated identity.

When I saw the major 2015 exhibition of Eric Ravilious (1903–1942) at Dulwich Picture Gallery, I saw that most of his work was made on the same size paper. I was seeing Ravilious’ work as though through the lens of the repeating multiples of the Minimalist movement that emerged in the 1960s and 70s.

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