ART AFRICA spoke to Isobel O'Connor in the build up to her solo exhibition 'DEEPER THAN SKIN,' opening this Saturday at Objekt | Design | Art Gallery in Franschhoek, South Africa.
ART AFRICA: When did you first become interested in portraiture?
Isobel O’Connor: My interest in portraiture started during my student years, where photography was part of my course. I still look at a face as though through the lens of a camera, looking at how light falls on bone structure, and trying to find the 'story' behind the eyes.
You work predominantly in charcoal and pastels. Is there a specific reason for this?
I like high contrast in my drawings. Charcoal powder allows me to cover large areas of paper with a fair amount of freedom, into and on top of which I can do detailed work with charcoal pencils. Pastel affords me a black that is more dense, and gives me the option of colour. Erasers work equally well on both mediums to create detail.
Please tell us about your upcoming exhibition ‘Deeper than Skin’?
'I AM A WOMAN OF AFRICA' was the title of a previous collection of portraits. Some of these were old faces, so this was the beginning of my fascination with lines and wrinkles, and the possible stories (apart from just age) to be found there. 'DEEPER THAN SKIN' is my homage to older women, where time and circumstance might have left grooves in a face, but where qualities such as strength, compassion, and humour never fade.
What is the relationship between your bird portraits and the images of women?
You begin each drawing with the eyes. By focusing on them, are you trying to capture some kind of overarching essence? And at what point do your subjects take on a quality of their own, if ever?