Sometimes the unseen is more eerie than what is shown. It is a theme often explored in film – the popular cinematic device of building a sense of foreboding by concealing things just off-screen, rendering them all the more sinister. This is the idea explored by Spanish artist Daniel Coves in his ongoing series Back Paintings.
In these oil on linen paintings, Coves obscures the identities of his subjects either by picturing them from behind, or using hair to hide their faces entirely. Coves’s central interest in hair lies in its ability to cloak and obscure, shrouding each portrait in an air of mystery. By excluding faces altogether, his paintings subvert the idea of the ‘conventional’ portrait, which is traditionally based around capturing a person’s facial features. “When this is hidden, you add ambiguity,” Coves explains, “a portrait that doesn’t allow you to identify a specific person becomes a portrait of a person in general”.