For Father W.B. is a non-traditional portrait by Llyn Foulkes. The artwork has the characteristics of a typical portrait painting, in that the work represents the likeness of an individual. This particular portrait, however, has a grotesque twist. The head of the individual is covered in dripping red paint, resembling a horrific hemorrhaging. Furthermore, the red paint renders the portrait obsolete, as the subject becomes unidentifiable. What can be seen of the subject, however, is his jaw and his clothes, which are painted on top of the photograph and resemble that of a Catholic priest.
Another curious aspect of the portrait is the fact that another scaled-down portrait is layered on top of the subject’s face. This figure is also unrecognizable and unidentifiable because of a splatter of white paint on top of their face. This artwork is part of Foulkes’s Bloody Head series, comprised of portraits overlaid with bloody red paint and a second, smaller associated image. Foulkes has included handwritten text in this painting that reads, “This painting is dedicated to father W.B. In memory of my first and last baptism. Llyn Foulkes 1974.” Thus, one could interpret the smaller image in this portrait to be an individual in baptismal robes, as Foulkes is referencing his own baptism in the text, which reinforces the ecclesiastical theme apparent in the artwork.
The painting also features an unpolished, roughly constructed frame, appearing to be made of raw wood. One might also consider how the frame chosen by the artist contributes to the artwork’s unnerving nature.
Artist: Llyn Foulkes
Title: For Father W.B.
Medium: Mixed media
Dimension: 17 1/4 x 15 1/4 x 1 in. (44 x 39 x 3 cm)
Collection: The Buck Collection at the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art
Copyright: © Llyn Foulkes. Courtesy Sprüth Magers