Storm Tharp refers to his series of portraits Love Nothing More as paintings, although their media (paper, ink, and pencil on paper) suggest they’re drawings. The artist’s confusion is telling: these are paintings that borrow the casual fluency of the speedy sketch, or maybe drawings that refer to the classical grandeur of the painted portrait.
The tension between old hat associations of two traditional modes – the provisional glimpse against the measured analysis, let’s say – create the stage for Tharp’s cast of sometimes grotesque, often sympathetic characters. Each face’s appearance is pitched between the seen and the glimpsed. As though mimicking the act of forgetting, faces blur and disappear in a cloud of marks: the act of description erases them. Ink is sucked backwards into the blankness of the paper (what was his name again?); the medium’s wetness makes nostrils and eye sockets splay madly (no, I don’t think we’ve met).
Tharp, inspired by the technique of Japanese calligraphy, uses the application of ink as a parallel of the mind’s movements, its unexpected focuses and elisions. As with any portrait, Tharp’s works are signs pointing to a void: the subject itself, physically absent, disappearing before our very eyes.
Text by Ben Street