'Kurt II' is part of a series of individual portraits of my heroes, admirations and inspirations. From music and popular culture, these are people that I love and admire: the pretty and the beautiful, alive and dead. My interest lies in capturing the feeling of beauty and of presence in a pared-down style. In essence, I try to replicate the person’s character and the psyche, without all the unnecessary details.
Personally, I am drawn towards pictures of the ‘charmed ‘ and ‘damned’ of yesterday and today; these are figures of youth and beauty, at the pivotal moment in time before their ultimate fall from grace.
This portrait of Kurt Cobain emphasises his character in a brooding, expressionistic way. His slightly pouting lips, ragged hair and the shadowed crimson eyes is a clear reference to paintings of the Romantic tradition. Viewers can easily relate to Kurt in an empathetic way, ‘the be-loved’ Kurt Cobain. I hope to move the viewer with images of beautiful style, execution and sentiment.
This painting also combines contemporary references, including it’s tight square crop, which dramatises the portrait and redirects our attention to the gorgeous colour palette of pink and green. Surrounded by a mass of gorgeous lovely yellow hair, Kurt looks really hip and cool.
The source material for ‘Kurt II’ was a colour photograph, in which I was fascinated by his body language and expression; he appears quite melancholic and subdued, rather than his playful self. His shoulders are slightly bent forward, which unveils a certain vulnerability echoed in his wide-eyed gaze. He looks out with ‘puppy-dog’ eyes at the viewer, revealing unto us is a figure desperate for love and admiration.
Working in my home studio, ‘Kurt II’ was completed in February 2020. In December 2019, I completed the base layers of this painting along with the other two paintings of the series, ‘Kurt (Tribute to Kurt Cobain)’ and ‘Kate Bush’. Utilizing the same technique, I started with a black background and built up sections of paint and paint layers within the face, removing black paint with a tissue. This detail is nicely balanced and works well with the loose brush marks of his jacket and t-shirt.
Contemporary in feel, I still wanted to show the traditional romanticism and utter decadence of the creative genius. Kurt’s gentle and seemingly effeminate nature is ever present. With the immortal glow of Kurt’s blonde hair, this painting allows the viewer to temporarily escape into a nearly perfect world, however fleeting.
Kurt II Portrait
Oil on linen