Ryan Hewett is an African visual artist based in the rolling hills of South Africa’s Natal midlands who, in his twelve-plus years of artistic output, has chosen to delve into ever more complex and emotive studies of the human face and figure. His portraiture draws on the hidden histories embedded in the features of his family, his friends, himself, and his fellow citizens as he seeks to uncover the identities, memories and dreams lurking just below the surface.
Hewett’s preferred subject matter is the human profile, and his impressionistic style is well suited for exploring the almost infinite range of expression of which that profile is capable. Working largely in oils and acrylics, his painting walks a fine line between a geometric cubism and wild, organic swirls of life. Often working in a cool blue and grey palette – a visual quality similar to the stone busts his paintings resemble – but spiking it with bolts of warm oranges and reds, Hewett gives the viewer a highly calibrated view of his subjects. His images, produced through bold, angular globs, tend to coalesce and intensify at a center point – as if we were seeing through a sort of mist – and dissolve to their wild and essential form on the periphery, hinting at a more fundamental motion beneath it all.
The effect is striking, as the intimate details of a face seem to suddenly cohere, blooming into focus out of a background of chaotic color. Many appear to be the result of a careful study of the most minute detail – the curve of a lip, or the squint of an eye – that, in rising out of a minimalistic scaffolding, still manage to capture a personality’s power in a moment’s look.
It is fascinating, too, to see the evolution of Hewett’s work. His most recent paintings experiment with more robust form and color than his earlier pieces. These were often done in simple line and charcoal, carrying less visual weight but still invested with a sense of power: portraying somber, stripped-down faces, in dimmer tones, resting not on a neck or body but simply looming in from an outer darkness.
Simply put, we look forward to seeing where Ryan Hewett goes next in his work. To find more of it, check out his artist page, his Instagram account, and his Facebook profile. Find more incredible works of art at IPaintMyMind, and check out our Shared Walls Initiative to help make art available for everyone to enjoy.