Laith McGregor has been exploring the conceptual foundations of portraiture, from primitive mark making through to contemporary practice, and the discourses surrounding it, while being immersed in various cultural communities. He says: “The resulting work is an outcome of my ongoing research to understand the complexity of the human experience and my place within it, in particular investigating the relationship of various interpretations of portraiture as a common vernacular, through the use of masks, deities and notion of the self.”
This body of work was made while traveling overseas, time felt like it was condensing, becoming arbitrary, barely a function to signal the difference between night and day, I had a feeling of being displaced, not knowing languages, unfamiliar locations, people. Time was slowing down, every day felt like the last and simultaneously the first. I would spend the mornings in various studio locations, with most afternoons spent exploring, eating, swimming, walking and then back to the studio at night – the same again the next day. This new body of work attempts to recreate that feeling of isolation, stillness and longing.
I’ve chosen to work with unknown artists from the past to collaborate on a new body of work. I’ve taken existing portraits from unknown artists and sitters, then reconfigured, graffitied and created a new narrative, a space where the original persona has been given a new life. I employ the subconscious as a way of directing the outcome of the work. Like a diary, I write daily events, quotes, song lyrics and random text from daily life, then transpose straight onto the work, creating a new dialogue for the unknown sitter, the forgotten artist and myself. The cast of characters become a ramshackle group of wandering vagabonds, a motley group with unknown origins, identities and directions, all forming a new collective portrait.