UK-based portrait artist Lucy Pass is fascinated with the human face, with particular focus on the eyes. Working in a range of styles – from loose pencil sketches to more tightly rendered oil paintings – her portraits feature little to no background. Detached from the material world, her subjects are hard to place in a specific time and place. Instead, the viewer has to fill in the blanks and make their own assumptions about the subject, which can, in turn, teach them something about themselves.
Some of her oil paintings are embellished with gold leaf, taking inspiration from religious art, while others feature unfinished faces partly obscured by abstract, naive shapes, like out of focus, nameless objects.
In a captivating recent series of hers, Pass painted miniature portraits of a single gazing eye, some of which were places inside tiny golden boxes. Based on Georgian lover’s eye portraits, these pieces have an eerie feel to them, inviting you to a staring contest in which there’s one clear winner.
“If the intent of portraiture is to capture the subject in their truest sense, I am then a kind of anti-portrait maker, passing my own subconscious judgment on an unknown face and inviting the viewer to then do the same when faced with the finished piece,” writes Pass on her website.
“I have become fascinated by the range of responses to each face – what one person sees can be in complete contradiction to what the next sees. Sometimes these reactions can be clearly explained by the individual and other times it is something visceral that can’t be placed. The piece is then no longer about the face looking back at us, but about the feelings that it stirs and what those feelings say about us.”
Take a look at some of her work, but beware – it might just look back.