I remember reading that the young Balthus was deeply influenced by Derain’s remark, “The only purpose of painting today is the recovery of lost secrets.” That observation was made almost a hundred years ago now, but it still resonates with me.
A painting is an intensely personal vision. It is intuitive and its meaning can be elusive—sometimes even to the painter. Each painting is a piece of something that you can spend a lifetime trying to figure out. It’s a revelation of the unseen, the hidden. And sometimes a painting is as much about what isn’t seen as what is.
My work is about relationships, and about separateness. But fundamentally the paintings are about the self. I'm interested in that place of tension between the containment and the expression of feeling, and in how to portray that visually.
My paintings depict individual men, but they aren't portraits. The men inhabit a particular place, but it isn't real. It's an interior territory, where things are and are not what they seem. The paintings are like stages, and the men who inhabit them are the actors. The reality lies in the emotional core of this world, intensely felt but highly contained. My model Lorenzo called it "emotional purgatory.”
They're a group of anonymous men, but they’re also in some way self-portraits. And perhaps these are worlds of their own making—worlds with edges, and outsides, and unknown terrains beyond, just out of reach. This is the region where desire and doubt, longing and reticence, intimacy and uncertainty coexist. It speaks of absence as much as presence.