The human face is the regulator in portraiture. Undertones in body language and focus enhance the understanding of personal climate. Although family photographs and identification card sessions are formative moments in the genre, their staging often counteracts introspection. Oleg Dou (b. 1983) is a digital photographer rebelling against the fabricated photographs of his childhood. He is currently preparing his most recent series, Another Face, to be shown at the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow during the month of July.
Dou’s series is simultaneously forward and nonintrusive, melancholic and stirring. Bald female sitters with bone-white porcelain skin (smoothed over in post-production) and irises might inhabit both dreams and nightmares. Monochrome backgrounds of peach and grey neutralize the images further. Layers of paper and drawings adhered to the faces, oftentimes mimicking smallpox or pressure points, are a break in the uniformity. Textured skin and the repetitive use of sinewy red lines between the mouth, nose, and eyes summon marionette dolls in all their frightening beauty. Dou’s images incriminate the face as a mask, one that is as decorative as it is concealing.
Oftentimes portraiture will attempt to extract a pulse from subjects that might not be readily available in everyday life. Dou’s seemingly neutral subjects, however, allow one to pose questions that are intentionally impossible to answer. Are images such as Clown (2012) and Smile (2011) taken to humiliate the subject or elevate their mystery? Is the moisture welling in the eyes of Smile 2 (2012) tears of joy, fear, or neither? Over the course of these 13 images, Dou reveals how simple it is to trump a portrait’s ability to provide context. His portraits situate viewer and artist in the same position of doubt, unable to discern the truth beyond physical appearance.
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