Hedley Roberts paints ‘non-portraits’. He begins by working from photographic collages using images sent to him by friends, acquaintances and strangers across social media. The paintings begin with recognizable features, but as they progress, elements are obliterated, layered over, removed or simplified. As they become increasingly abstract, they stop being representational and instead become floating signifiers made in the technical pleasure of the paint material. Works are realized across weeks, months or even years.
Throughout, Roberts ‘imagines’ his relationship with the person portrayed, creating an internalized dialogue. In this activity, Roberts aims to make the paint embody something of the metaphysical space that is between the artist and subject. The finished works become not only a portrait of the sitter but also function as “other” portraits of the time and landscape in which they were made. Roberts states: “Through the process, the paintings stop being indexical to the person portrayed, and start being an unknown ‘other’.
They could be our friend, our acquaintance, colleague, family, stranger, lover, or enemy. They might be black, white, yellow, brown, atheist, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, Arab, Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Kurdish, American, European, immigrant, national, ex-pat, straight, heteronormative, genderqueer, neurotypical. No matter who they are; we cannot know their thoughts, lives or experience. They are always different to us, always alien, always 'other'.”