Artwork by Till Freiwald
Till Freiwald makes closely observed portrait pictures, watercolors on paper, in two formats: one around 30 by 20 inches and the other around 90 by 60 inches. The view in both sizes is identical: full frontal, with the head cropped at the top of the sheet and the ears just contained within the vertical edges. The smaller are painted from life; the larger are subsequently painted from the artist’s memory. From the small format to the large, little changes other than the scale itself. In any case, presumably the original sessions-the smaller portraits are the result of several sittings-are necessary to the large pictures. Are then the larger portraits necessary to the smaller? The smaller paintings, after all, don’t call out for enlargement; they aren’t so small. At 30 inches high, the heads we meet in them are already well over life-size.
EH Gombrich has written that “style, like any other uniform, is also a mask which hides as much as it reveals.” What Freiwald reveals with the style of these pictures is his literacy in a common idiom, but he also uses style as a cloaking device that allows him to contemplate both a face and its image in uncommon stillness and even more uncommon privacy. The fidelity they suggest is not to the observable world but to an interior repository. The dramatic shift in scale becomes a clue to the viewer of Freiwald’s uncanny inner process. How else would we ever even guess it might exist?