Fayum – Kiran, Cortona.
Kiran. Cortona, Italy. 2010.
scan from 8x10in negative
All the Fayiumi portraits are, of course, defined by the compressed space of the mummy casing. Strange illusions arise from this: despite a slight reduction in size, the ancient portraits seem life-size, and despite the diminished background, the have a tremendous amount of presence. I think the eyes, and the way we are hard-wired to attend to them, have a lot to do with this illusion.
This portrait of Kiran was taken in my studio in Cortona. His eyes are certainly the most captivating part of the image, but the points of focus that they provide also help create an illusion: the rectangular splash of sunlight on the floor seems less behind him than hovering above him. I have the luxury of working on a larger plane than the Fayum painters, as well as the joy of celebrating life rather than packing my images off to the necropolis.