Personal Style in Portraiture Painting – ‘Visual Dialogues with Water’ Analysis of the Portraiture by Eddy Ochieng

  • Kamau Wango, PhD Kenyatta University
Keywords: Stylistic Framework, Visual Dialogue, Physiognomy, Self-Image, Egoism
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Portraiture is arguably one of the most celebrated genres of art and artistic expression through the ages. Artists have always sought to create depictions of themselves in self-portraits as well as the depiction of sitters through in-person posed sessions, referencing, or imagination. They have also used portraiture for artistic expression particularly when aiming to depict human feelings and emotions for the practical reason that human expression itself is synonymous with facial expression. It is only through the study of physical facial expression that an artist is able to derive artistic expression in a continuum that ranges from extreme joy signified by laughter to extreme distress, signified by tears. In between the continuum is a whole retinue of feelings and emotions, such as amusement, happiness, irritation, anger, sorrow, despair, fear, anxiety, sadness, and many other human manifestations that emanate from life’s experiences. Apart from the obvious outer facial expressions, there are also the innate expressions that underscore personality and character that artists wish to unearth, study, and explore in their subjects. To execute and achieve these expressions in portraiture, the artist uses selected media, styles, and techniques that best suit the desired objective. This paper posits that there exists a correlation between individual style and the effectiveness of the intended purpose of portraiture where effectiveness applies to the communicative or expressive value of a portrait as well as its overall acclaim. It must be noted that there is no portraiture that lacks intent, be it portrayal of likeness from self-portraits or sitters or portraits derived from photographs, thematic referencing that leads to the depiction of certain facial expressions in subject matter or creating portraiture from imagination including surrealistic inspirations. When certain portraiture is at times perceived as not being effective in terms of its intent, it is fair to conclude that this may often be as a result of the personal style of the artist or its execution being incompatible with the intended purpose. Hence viewers fail to see or extract what was intended for them to decipher essentially because they are distracted by the personal style. In the same token, when portraiture is seen to be effective, it is often presupposed that this is a result of the personal style of the artist and its execution being deemed compatible with its intended purpose. Hence to a significant extent, the viewer is able to extract this purpose because they are aided by rather than distracted by the style and specifically, personal stylistic rendition. This paper examines the portraiture of Eddy Ochieng, an outstanding Kenyan hyperrealist in order to ascertain whether there exists this visual correlation between his personal style and the intent of his portraiture. He embraces the hyperrealism style featuring some self-portraits as well as of others derived from photographs. The inquiry is whether this style delves into any other meaning other than the quest for the photographic representation of likeness and whether the likeness itself is effectively extracted.


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3 October, 2020
How to Cite
Wango, K. (2020). Personal Style in Portraiture Painting – ‘Visual Dialogues with Water’ Analysis of the Portraiture by Eddy Ochieng. East African Journal of Arts and Social Sciences, 2(1), 134-153.

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