California-based artist Kai Samuels-Davis layers linear paint strokes and large washes of color to form shapes that are recognizable as faces, but without all of the visual information seen in traditional portraiture. The artist relies on the process to find the image, often starting with a sketch or a simple circle to build upon for the face. Working in a space between the representational and expressive, the artist is able to focus on emotion through abstraction so that the viewer can form their own narrative through each gesture and colorful brush stroke.
“None of the final aesthetic is planned,” Samuels-Davis tells Colossal. “Each mark, brush stroke and color is a reaction to what came before it. When I’m working on a portrait the subject appears to morph between multiple individuals over the course of the painting, often times becoming slightly androgynous in the process. I tend to bounce around the surface a lot, pushing and pulling between background and subject, painting over parts, figuring out what each piece needs until there’s nothing I would change.”
Working primarily with found images, Samuels-Davis spends months or even years on his portraits, with dozens of works in progress at a given time. His work will be included in the group exhibition PAINTGUIDE at Thinkspace Gallery this November. To see more of his completed paintings of faces, flowers, and animals, follow him on Instagram.