Saydi Kaufman

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Artist Statement

My recent work explores portraiture through large scale oil paintings and ink drawings that contemplates the boundaries between figuration and the abstraction. The portraits are of mythical beings created from my own imagination. They are usually a bust with a non human face and the suggestion of a human body. The shapes in the face are made up of fleshy layers with moving appendages and nobular parts that multiply and build upon eachother. These organ like parts often radiate out of a single cyclopian eye that exists in the center of the face. The eye symbolizes a spiritual window. I want the viewer to feel the intense and confrontational gaze of the eye as it watches and assess the world, and simultaneously reflects our own image back at us. In some of the paintings the figures exists in a frenetic fractured environment that is swirling and breaking apart. In other portraits the atmosphere is dark with much less movement around the figure. I am facing a dilemma in how successful the drawings are versus the paintings. In the drawings I am better able to achieve a feeling of layering and fluidity of motion. However, I feel that the paintings give me the opportunity to express the lusciousness of color that I also associate with these beings. I have been heavily influenced by Cecily Brown for her large scale painterly work that embraces an often fleshy palette. Marlene Dumas and Frank Auerbach have also inspired me for their intense portraiture that often summons a psychological slant that feels otherworldly. The intensity and intimacy that I am trying to create this portrait versus the viewer relationship is derived from my early exposure to Greek and Byzantine icons and mythology. I often saw this kind of portraiture in the community in which I grew up, but I never had any context for the meanings or purpose of the icons. I was often transfixed by the way the almond shaped eyes stared out at me with no hesitation. In my own work I am searching for a spiritual representation of the human experience. I feel the need to symbolically suggest the many facets that make up an individual’s life. While the realistically rendered human face can be incredibly effective in emoting a persons’ spirit, I feel the need to translate it in a different way. While I have found the images in Christian art to be beautiful, I am also very drawn to the way that the ancient Greeks and Egyptians depicted people. Their willingness to incorporate animals and monstrous disfigurement into portraiture and storytelling allows for so many complex metaphors of identity and experience. In my own life I am in awe of the many roles that I play and the many universes I seem to be balancing all the time. So much darkness and light can exist in unison and I think that within each of us there is a struggle with balancing sexuality, ego, self acceptance, gender roles, power, control, sadness, loss, joy, etc… In my work I am trying to harness some of the beauty of that struggle by erecting these imagined deities.

Saydi Kaufman

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