Shaun Downey’s portraits draw on influences as varied as Dutch masters and comic books, grounding a centuries-long tradition of figure painting firmly in the present. Employing a realist style, Downey creates emotionally evocative portraits, mostly of women, in fully realized settings where the figure’s face and mood are equally informed by their environment. Downey’s avowed interest in figures such as Vermeer and Norman Rockwell becomes apparent in his attention to people going about their daily habits, such as a woman fixing her hair or washing her hands, always within a contemporary setting and garb. Similarly in the tradition of these aforementioned painters, Downey does not exclusively paint faces, often rendering his figures with their backs turned to the viewer. However, his hyperrealist style and manipulation of oil paints renders these compositions as evocative as his expressive front-facing figures.
Shaun strives to breathe fresh life into realist painting by combining classical ideals within the context of his own life and surroundings. His paintings have elements of decades past, but are firmly grounded in present day. Often painting his wife and friends within the confines of his home, we are allowed a voyeuristic glance into his world as he reveals his efforts to capture the fleeting beauty of modern life.
As outside viewers, we find ourselves longing to understand who Shaun’s subjects are. What their lives are like, and which chain of events led them to the exact moment the artist has captured. His meticulously rendered paintings call out to be understood, but we the viewer are left to make our own assumptions.
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