I consider myself a figurative painter first and foremost, so I am primarily drawn to the form and composition of the image, rather than any conceptual consideration. The atmosphere or mood also play a part. I like images that I don’t entirely understand – that have a degree of ambiguity about them…as if it is not entirely obvious what is going on, or it is open to interpretation.
We are all constantly evolving, so no doubt each work relates to it’s predecessors but also hints at the works that will follow it, like a premonition. My role is just to stay totally present in the moment and to create as honestly as I can without looking back or forward. The evaluation of where the piece fits in relation to my general practice really comes after the fact. I don’t separate my portraits from my other work. I see them as part of one body of work. I may work on a large painting and then do a portrait before moving on to the next large painting.
A very large part of the process is taken up by the search for the image. I search extensively online in diverse and sometimes obscure places, like Japanese newspapers or blogs. I also sometimes type in random or meaningless search terms into Google to unearth unusual images or tap less obvious sources. Once an image grabs me, I may even work it into a collage along with other images previously found – sometimes images I’ve been keeping for some time. For some reason, many of the images that appeal to me are in black and white. This allows me to add my own colour choices, thereby adding my own stamp to the image – reclaiming and re-interpreting it. But even with colour images I tend to paint them with my own palette.
Sometimes a painting just won’t gel or come together, even if the source image still appeals to me. I’ve learnt to walk away from the painting and focus on something else for a few hours or even days and then come back to the painting. This typically brings about a spontaneous insight or resolution when I look at the painting with fresh eyes. This could mean changing a background colour, or deleting a figure. Sometimes I just realise that the painting is perfect as it is.
Painting involves the conscious and the subconscious, which means that the works are always surprising – for the conscious mind at least. It’s that sense of being surprised by the work, at being partly in control, but also partly an instrument of a deeper force that makes the process so intriguing and keeps it exciting and unpredictable. So wherever the work may evolve or lead me, I know it is a reflection and a confirmation of my own growth. I look forward to being surprised and challenged.
Miguel Laino has won n a portrait showdown competition on SaatchiOnline, with his piece “Didier” being selected as the winner, by the judge, Chantal Joffe – one of my favourite contemporary artists. The painting will be exhibited along with the other 9 finalists at the Griffin Gallery in London form 5th – 20th December 2013.
See more paintings by Miguel Laino