Page Tsou has taken the traditional notion of portraiture and reversed the subject for a whole new, different perspective. The concentration is now on the backs of people’s heads: a portraiture without a face, with the subject now becoming an object of documentation. In his new exhibition, ‘The And’, Page explores the ideas surrounding the reversed image and questions how this perspective changes how we have come to define the portrait and what our previous expectations of this genre are. Dazed went to the barbershop to find out more about this intriguing project…
Dazed Digital: What made you decide to reverse the traditional idea of the portrait by drawing the backs of individual’s heads?
Page Tsou: After having drawn 3,000 people’s faces, I realised that I had never, ever paid any attention to those views that existed around us and were seen everyday. I started to wonder why people always focus on the facial features rather than the back of the head. That’s how it all began with the other side of people's head.
DD: The portraits are drawn in pencil, is this your preferred media to work in? Will you be branching out into other materials?
Page Tsou: Personally, pencil is a familiar media, and it is easy to control. The question of how to choose the media depended on the requirement and the feeling that I want to express; for example, I’ve shifted from pen to pencil, because I was able to smudge pencils to achieve the blur feel. In the future, other media will also be tried
DD: It is said that an individual’s eyes are the windows to their soul – do you think that the same essence can be embodied within a portrait that doesn’t show the front of the face?
Page Tsou: I am not drawing the features as it appears in portraits, but more of viewing and creating the subject as an object. Therefore, it is a drawing between figurative and abstract drawing. I am not concentrating on the description of the features, but the appearance of the work and the detail that it presents, and of course the imagination and the feeling of viewing a group of people's rear view.
DD: You have such a large archive of portrait work - what attracts you to potential portrait models? Are you trying to tell a story with the portrait, or is it more simply, a captured moment?
Page Tsou: Facial features are what I have usually been attracted to in the past. But in expressing one stranger's feeling towards the unfamiliar London, I realised that they talk too much and the room of thinking decreases; however if less information is expressed on the drawing, one's imagination will increase, and be able to pretty much feel what I want to express; and that is what I want to achieve. I think the mystery and the semi-figurative idea is what I like.
DD: You have drawn images of acclaimed artists Quentin Blake and Alain de Botton, is there anyone else in particular you would be interested in documenting?
Page Tsou: I’d like to draw the ones that I think are interesting and famous, no matter what subject area it is. The easier these people are recognised, the harder the public will see these people's rear with a normal mentality.
DD: How do the commercial projects you work on differ to your personal ventures? Do you have a different aesthetic or working process?
Page Tsou: In commercial projects, I tend to go with clients' requirements, and coming up with works that has a sweet and colorful feeling to it, restricted by the guide-line. Therefore, I see these as a practice in expressing my view. On the other hand, my personal work tends to reflect daily life, or the general emotion that I have day to day. I think there isn't much difference between these two types of creation, the major difference, I feel, is the freedom of creation.
DD: What, in your opinion, makes a good portrait?
Page Tsou: A good portrait is able to grasp the subject's temperament, and it's true shape of feeling inside.
'The And' will be shown from December 10 – 20 January at Bad Lambs & Sons in London