Portraiture is a genre with a long history and tradition. While historically a portrait demonstrated the sitter’s status and provided a record of appearance Colin Luxton is more concerned with studying the human form and the dynamic act of creating a portrait: a psychological exchange between artist and subject. Luxton explains, ‘working from a life model becomes a collaboration, the presence and personality of the sitter directly influences the process of the painting’. This dynamic exchange is forged in the final painting; the face becomes translated into rhythm and gesture, the particularities of colour. ‘The face becomes the authority, its presence there, folded into and piercing space, like the prow of a ship, forever intangible but somehow articulate, articulating’. This rhythmic element bands the paintings together, each one conversing with the others around the room, individual and joint experiences occurring at once. The paintings themselves are not direct copies of the person's physicality; their true nature lies in the painting of a moment, a shared experience between painter and sitter, a psychological glimpse into shared space. The effect on the body is visceral.
These paintings mark a change in medium for Luxton. His previous figurative studies that graced this gallery’s walls in late 2011 were intensely expressive workings of lines and shapes worked back from charcoal. This new series moves from the previous darkness to lighter fleshy tones of oil paints applied in thin glazes as well as thick expressive strokes. On this medium change Luxton writes 'Painting is pretty slippery. I'm after a paint quality allowing both clarity within the picture but, more importantly, a freedom and vitality in the process of making the picture – it's a balance between the two. I always like an imagethat can be completely dismantled and reworked, again and again – you have to really feel the construction of each element of the picture in your bones for the picture to work.’
The scale of Luxton’s work is notable. Well above life size the face shifts and changes with your movement around it. Viewed from afar the tightly cropped faces peer back. Close up the figure dissolves; the paint and its textural slickness and energy become the subject. Working on multiple levels yet with striking simplicity the energy of his forms translates to the viewer. The non-verbal authority of the work appeals to the senses as opposed to the rational mind. The exhibition title ‘mute...mutter...mum’ encapsulates the silent ‘felt’ aspects of the work. In Luxton’s words: 'the work... has to sink into the more unintelligible realm of the body. Don’t think: feel’.