Derek Michael Besant: In Other Words . . .
Canadian artist’s experiment in portraiture
This article is from 2015.
A creator of large-scale installations and billboard works at home in his native Canada, Derek Michael Besant presents a show in Edinburgh which might, by his standards, be considered small-scale. However, created with the users of Edinburgh Printmakers as his models, it’s an experiment which is completely in control of its own aesthetic and intention. This is an experiment in portraiture which goes out of its way to ‘unsee’ the individual, to represent them not through their features but through other personal identifying characteristics, both outward and inward.
Besant has photographed each of his participants – all 25 of them – in a manner which means their faces are blurred and obscured from our view. The precise technique is unknown; he may just have shot in extremely soft focus, although the notes describe a ‘UV thermal ink transfer onto synthetic paper’. The characters are unrecognisable, but there’s enough significant outline in their silhouette and on their face that they may yet be familiar to those who know them. Over these images, he has overlaid a continuing text comprised of their words, a ‘found poem’ which reveals snippets of each sitter by showing something other than their face. It’s an interesting project, although the repetition of form does become slightly wearing over a whole show.
Edinburgh Printmakers, 557 2479, until 5 Sep, free.