Dennis Olsen

 

 

Ficitive Portraits

The intaglio portraits of 2009-2011 represent a departure from my subject matter of recent years, linked only by a rendering style associated with engravings and historical documents of the past.

The series, Samplings, is derived from bank note engravings from around the world, however, my borrowings from those notes do not respect their provenance. Like musical samplings after which they are titled, they are composite faces: kings, queens, tyrants, heroes, saints and sinners. They are a complex visual mixing that melds facial appearances of ethnicity, gender, and class.

All of the images were drawn on Mylar, then exposed to ImageOn plates and printed as intaglios. They are entitled “Samplings” to acknowledge the fact that virtually all of the marks originated on bank notes but were recombined to form new images through drawing and frottage.

As the Mylar drawings emerge from the page distinct personalities are formed and I allow them to develop unhindered. Like authors who frequently say that their fictitious characters take them in unexpected directions, such journeys lead me to places that I have never visited and demand a resolution that can only be described as discovery. I permit myself to explore themes I have never used in previous work: humor and silliness, vulnerability and pomposity, anger and tenderness. 

Except for the rudimentary decision of size I begin each drawing “tabula rasa”, with only the idea of a portrait in mind. I cannot know what will result, and indeed I often begin by putting down marks that are difficult to resolve. Many of the images were drawn upside down: without seeing them “correctly” until the very end. The struggle to make a coherent image and work myself out of visual binds leads to unforeseen conclusions and unlikely solutions. Until a distinct personality emerges I do not complete the drawing, and I make numerous erasures to that end.

These personalities are a mystery to me, and therefore I make no attempt to interpret their meaning or significance, but I do write narratives suggested by each finished print.

Dennis Olsen
April 2011

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