Sunday, April 01, 2012
Illustrator & Photographer: Andre De Freitas
Posted by Harry Warwick
The photography and illustration of Andre De Freitas attends to a humanity that verges on the mythic. Much of his work is portraiture, but crucially, De Freitas destabilises this anthropocentric structure, depicting humans as invaded by both the supernatural and the painfully natural. In some cases consuming the body itself, emotional tensions and mental fractures become fully externalised.
In ‘Scary Thoughts’, canine figures nearly overwhelm the female form. The simple tranquillity of the lilac background belies the fear and violence that rage within, suggesting a reality bordering on the unreal, a sense of place nearly displaced, a sanctuary becoming unsanctified. Through this deft manipulation of the portrait, Andre brilliantly renders visible our suppressions of internal conflict. His portrayal of everyday experience presents us with something at once unrecognisable and deeply resonant.
But where ‘Scary Thoughts’ depicts the rupture of a surface pressured by internal conflict, the tone of ‘Midnight Passages’ is much softer. The interplay of external reality and the human being is once again at work: the panoramic sweep both extends beyond and reaches within the female observer. How far can we detach ourselves from the great, sprawling cityscapes that we inhabit? The female figure finds herself in a sort of spatial uncertainty, unsure of her exact relation to the towerblocks that litter the horizon. But it’s nonetheless important to note the great, empty space of the sky that occupies the top half of the image and the whitish mist that covers the image, dissolving the reality into the unreality we also experienced in ‘Scary Thoughts’.
But the passivity of the human in ‘Midnight Passages’ and ‘Scary Thoughts’ undergoes an alteration in ‘Signal’. The woman here is not merely receiving stimuli or refracting an internal conflict through mythical imagery; she is preoccupied, instead, with reaching something beyond the picture, an external event that is not here shown. The inner force of desire, the desire to communicate, manifests itself. Through sheer willpower, the exertion of agency, the human is able to search for a world beyond the portrait.
All three of these images depict subjects with no clear history, no past inscribed on them. Andre captures them in a moment, still, in contemplation. ‘Instead of just drawing,’ Andre says on his website, ‘I tried to imagine myself taking photos of my subjects. That way the illusion of stillness would be a little more believable, almost like a photograph.’ The admixture of the photographic, that which purports to be real, and the illustrative, which can divorce the photograph from this reality, is a key technique in his work, suited brilliantly to portraying the conflicts of inside and outside, reality and myth, wholeness and fracture that reverberate through his art.