Plenty of artists have approached paintings as sculptural objects. Steven Charles’ drippy psychedelic paintings, or Desire Obtain Cherish’s felt-like paint sculptures, come instantly to mind as recent examples. But Belfast-born artist Oliver Jeffers is pursuing a very distinct version of this approach with his “dipped paintings.”
Inspired by recollections of his father-in-law explaining how to clean old doors by submerging them in a vat of acid, Jeffers’ paints portraits that somewhat unremarkably mimic classical portraiture, until the canvases, frames and all, are dipped into a vat of paint.
“Why was it a portrait? It was arbitrary at that point,” Jeffers says in a short video on his process. “But the end result was really engrossing and engaging and fascinating because you sort of got this impression that this person was peering right over something at you. So it was arresting in a way that wouldn’t have held true with a landscape or a still life.”
“I”ll take each canvas and pair it with an old frame—each one has stories I suppose,” he says. “The frame adds to the physicality of what’s happening so you can really see the magnitude of the dip.”
He goes on to say that the thread connecting these dipped paintings is that the people in them, like himself, following the death of his mother, had suffered loss. While each subject interview informs the visual aspects of the dipped painting, the subject’s words themselves also get incorporated into the work.
“On a huge sheet of watercolor paper I hand write out certain excerpts of that interview, and this [gets] slid underneath to collect the paint from falling on the floor,” Jeffers explains. “And in the process of that it obscures the writing.”
In the future, Jeffers wants to paint dipped portraits of a wide cross-section of people, cutting across ethnicity, gender, age and religion, amongst other individual aspects.
“The end is vague,” he says. “Right now I want to keep plugging on. As certainly more interesting people crop up I’m going to keep my eyes open and mind open about where this thing is going, or rather where it’s taking me.” Watch his process in action below:
Click here to see more of Oliver Jeffer’s work.