141 | David Kassan - “Facing Survival”
Raw, poignant and profoundly honest, David Jon Kassan’s work aesthetically captures humanity in its true form. As an artist, Kassan acts as an empathetic intermediary between the subject he portrays and the viewer. More than simply replicating his subjects Kassan seeks to understand them. He seeks to capture the essence of those he paints, imbuing them with their own voice. They communicate with the viewer interpersonally and we see them through our own eyes. Our gaze transcends the picture plane and permeates deep into the subject’s psyche. We are moved by Kassan’s depictions, captivated by powerfully expressive hands, pensive faces, and flesh that appears warm to touch. Kassan’s portraits pulsate with the lives of his sitters – the weighty streams-of-consciousness of past experiences, feeling and introspection.This is what reality means to Kassan – preserving the realness of nuanced emotion and expression emanatingfrom the people he paints. Kassan’s technical mastery of oil paint combined with adept draftsmanship enables him to fluently represent what he sees. This is evident in the stunning flesh tones Kassan achieves. Transparent layers of oil paint are built up, forming an intricate lattice of veins, blood and skin. Through this light enters and is reflected back, infusing the subject with veridical luminosity. We can also sense movement and life beneath the undulating creases and folds of clothing. It is the artist’s intent to control the medium of oil paint so that it is not part of the viewer to subject equation. Kassan facilitates an interface between subject and viewer with which he is conscious not to interfere. The technical aspect of his work is thus a means to an end; an end rooted in the viewer’s experience.We find inherent contradictions in Kassan’s work as it oscillates between representation and transformation, reality and abstraction.
Topics Discussed In This Episode:
- Kassan's journey creating paintings based on his interactions with Holocaust survivors, and his recent emotionally transcendent experience exhibiting these works at the Fisher Museum of Art at USC.
- How his early paintings of his family allowed him to develop a closer relationship with them.
- Wanting his students and followers to understand more of why he paints other than how he paints.
- The power of overcoming great trauma, and how it inspires Kassan artistically.
- Grappling with the issue of how people dehumanize one another.
- The balance between the emotional, and technical process of painting.
- Making artwork that doesn't necessarily follow trends, or the desires of a gallery.
- Working with the Shoah Foundation, and how they help genocide survivors.
Posted on 1.20.2020