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  • Clare Morgan

Why no heads?

For years my figures had no faces...

People have always fascinated me. I have undeniably loved figurative work since the moment I drew from life during my time in sixth form. Being known for having some drawing ability and excelling in Art meant the bar was set quite high; every time I tried to draw a face or head I got frustrated with myself and focused on easier wins.

I was young and it was something that I was not very confident with so rather than tackling it and practicing it I just avoided it for a very long time. Throughout university I would draw figures with no heads or faces; I removed identity allowing the viewer to put themselves in the place of the figure, the anonymity meant a deeper connection and it totally suited the work at the time but I always felt something was missing.

As my practice developed and in an attempt to move away from figures, I remembered my love of urban decay and began exploring places where humans were not present. I called these non-places and created studies of car parks, subways and transitional places which led to a piece in the Walsall New Art Gallery in 2011 where I exposed photos onto floating concrete blocks. I love concrete, the green dripping damp, the graffiti and the marks and the traces that somebody has been there are captivating. I tried really hard to remove people and I went back to my tried and trusted love of urban spaces.

2011 walsall art gallery- installation detail.

However, there is something about drawing people… the pose, the gaze, the face, the space the sitter occupies, the expression… that tells the story of our humanity. The portrait fascinates me, so after a long break from art making I had nothing to lose; I persevered and started to practice drawing faces. I walked into a portrait drawing session to work from a model and even though I was absolutely terrified and feeling extremely vulnerable about my ability, it really was the best thing I ever did.

my very first portrait from a sitter (2017)

Now the portrait is my favourite thing to draw, I adore capturing that expression, that physical presence of another human, observing the form and the structure of the face. In capturing something of their humanity it forges more of a connection, a shared identity.

Through the portrait I can communicate something about being human, each artwork leaves a mark, an imprint or a trace on the world, a moment in time and I have the privilege of being able to document and capture it. Using these faces to tell, not just my story, but to encourage you to ‘feel’ your story, enforces that it’s about our humanity and that we are all in this together.

My final message from this story is that if something feels difficult and challenging to master it's probably worth getting stuck in and doing...


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