A Face for Radio - By Adam Leech
I like the phrase ‘A Face for Radio’. It’s a sardonic way to say someone is ugly.
‘Have you met the new neighbor? He has a nice voice, but a face for radio.’ For this exhibition, in a twisted manner, I have created the opposite of this phrase: beautiful faces - to be seen but not heard.
When I pick up my brush to paint a beautiful face I often feel a touch of shame. You can see this emotion in the paintings - in the holes across the surface - the poorly fitting clothes – the odd hairstyles. Why do I feel this shame? Because painting beautiful faces feels self-indulgent and unfair (like a millionaire winning the lottery). Nevertheless, when I follow my brush it leads me to my pretty faces. My visual language, one could say, is forged from these feelings: shame interacting with curiosity, desire, and subjectivity – plus the material challenge of making something out of nothing.
The holes also give the paintings a dynamic incompleteness. I like this. Look at Princess and Finished Window. Between these two works you can see my visual language. Painting Princess satisfied my hunger, my desire; painting Finished Window satisfied my more sober and analytical side.
Pride, as a positive self-conscious emotion, comes later - once a painting is done.
There is joy as well. A lot of it. It arrives during the process - when self-consciousness fades and I am searching for the right skin tone (vermillion, or umber?), or giving shape to a beam of light, or adding texture to the petals of a flower. In positive psychology this feeling is called flow, or being in the zone – and is the most valuable part of my process. The emotions of disgust and rage do not arrive while I am painting faces.
When I am painting windows I have feelings associated with deep solitude, awe, and the mysteries of the unknown. The indulgence and sensual pleasure of painting is in the orbit of a larger, denser set of concerns – concerns that I believe we all have in common.
Unfinished Window is my newest attempt at painting a window. This painting speaks to moments when life’s deep concerns are unrepressed, occupying one’s mind, keeping us alert and questioning.
I listen to people talking on the radio while I am painting. Sometimes I imagine the unseen faces behind those voices (while I am mixing a color or dripping some oil on my palette). I don’t imagine their faces as ugly. I'm not sardonic or funny when I am alone. I am merely curious whether their voice would match their face.
When I am done painting for the day I often take a walk in the city. Walking out my front door, the first thing I do is put in earplugs. It's a way of pushing the sound away and letting the eyes navigate the world, a world whose face is better seen when not heard.