Some things are not meant to be beautiful

“Stark Portraits”

What really separates Lynyrd from many artists of his age is, up to now, his concentration on portraits. These are mainly faces which belong to a close community of kin and associates of his youth with whom he has shared common experiences in a depressed corner of this rambling city. Consistently, he has shunned beautiful and glamorous faces of media appeal, as well as random faces in the endless stream of the living streets. Yet this is not to say that his faces are unbeautiful, they possess a bitter, perhaps, resentful, or pained beauty formed by their personal histories. And because the artist knows them well, he is able to maintain an unusual intensity in his work.

His styles is no doubt realist, because it is essentially based on a close observation of visible, even on surface appearances. But his figurative style in the rendering of the faces is characterized by a sharpness, or starkness, if you will. In the first place, the images are in black and white, devoid of color which is usually creates a softening effect. Lynyrd refuses all manner of delectation which is not within the purview of the work and his images are proffered with all severity and strictness. A number of them are images on the brink, like the boy in “Wasak na Wasak:, with his eyes wide open at the impending doom, and mouth agape at the coming heavy blow. While the image is certainly realist in the sharp delineation of features, it comes close to expressionism in its intensity of feeling, that of conveying immediate shock.

What may have a softening effect on the portraits is the mood of deep melancholy and loss-perhaps of childhood, innocence, love, friendship. A couple is portrayed nursing their wounds after a brutal gang war; some young women and children wander aimlessly in a roofless space, and some young people seem to relive their nightmares unremittingly. Most of the artist’s subjects are young with frail bodies and skinny limbs, signs of poverty and continuous struggle against malicious enemies and predators even in their own communities.

In the artist’s black and white, he keeps a high contrast between the dark and bright areas to maintain a high emotional level in the tension of the opposite spaces. The area for the hair is often a heavy, textured black. The area for the face is a smooth and bloodless white with white modeled shapes for the cheekbones. But in the ¾ or profile presentation, there seems to be no concern on the part of the artist to create transitory tones between the black area of the hair and the white area of the face as in the technique of sfumato in the Italian Renaissance. He prefers to keep a stark contrast so as not to defuse the tension.

An important devise unique to Lynyrd Paras is his use of text messages. These are like graffiti or handwriting writ large and superimposed randomly on the faces and images and serve to indicate their social contexts, problems, and contradictions. They are often strong social statements and add to the identities of the subjects. But what they primarily serve to do is to bring back textuality to the image, not only as a visual element, but also one which enhances the engagement of viewer and work.

  • Alice Guillermo
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