Our enduring fascination with portraiture is the starting point for this new series of paintings by Kai McCall. Set in the present, the figures in these paintings engage with the past by taking on the tones and colours of Grand Manner portraiture. The play of light and shadow is treated differently from one painting to another, shifting from a deep chiaroscuro in the portraits set at night to an airy lightness in those set outside. The lighting sets the stage for scenes that appear to be simultaneously of the past and the present. The inky darkness surrounding some of the figures recalls both classical painting and cinematic lighting. References to both classical painting and cinema are also found in the figures themselves; the poses they assume, their expectant attitudes and the hints of narrative implicit in the direction of their gazes.
In many cases the figures in these paintings look beyond the frame of the canvas, towards some unknown object or individual. We are left to guess at the object of the figure’s gaze, and so a pronounced feeling of expectation lingers. In this sense the paintings operate like film stills, a narrative is suggested but its outcome is never fully resolved. The ambiguity of the figure’s intentions, along with references to the past and present make for enigmatic works that require the viewer‘s active imagination and engagement.
Kai McCall lives in Montreal and has exhibited his work professionally for 25 years. He has had solo and group shows in Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, and has participated in numerous art fairs. His work is in collections in Canada, the United States and Europe.