Carrying on with all things Toronto during my stay that is just about *sniff* up - an event that links my former home with my current one - I introduce you to Toronto artist Shaun Downey. The name may ring a bell, however, as may the painting above. Shaun's portrait Blue Coco was recently selected for exhibition in this year's Portrait Award competition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, England. Out of the 58 chosen from 2,177 entries, Shaun's work was singled out to be the 'face' of the gallery's advertising campaign, including a 9-metre-high banner at the museum's entrance on Trafalgar Square to mark the exhibition's opening in June.
It's an intriguing portrait worth a long stare or two, don't you think?
So who's 'Coco'? She's 20 year-old model Dearbhail Bracken-Roche who goes by the fashionable nickname when working. She sat for Shaun at age 17 when the friend of a friend introduced the two, and the rest is now blue-tinged history. Interestingly, she's now living and working in London and has found fame in the city, often being recognised in the street. I suppose that happens when your giant, unusually beautiful face is plastered over one of London's most famous and popular landmarks, as well as the tube stations. (How would you feel? Honoured and thrilled or completely freaked out?)
The artist and muse at the National Portrait Gallery in London. From Shaun's blog.
As you may have guessed, Shaun prefers to paint portraits. The work featured on his site is exclusively portraiture dating back to 2004, and all of his subjects are women, though they are not always captured in the formal pose. There's a quiet calm about these pictures, as if the seemingly ordinary moment is being held not just within the frame but is occupying a pensive dimension in which we're being granted a peak. The background colours are soft yet often vibrant which make his work, in my mind, 'happy' pictures, something I'd like to look at everyday. His paintings are gorgeous.