Volker Hermes reimagines classical paintings bringing more attention to the garments of the time
In the ongoing series of works titled “Hidden portraits,” we see artist Volker Hermes transform classical paintings into images of elaborate face-covered subjects of high society. While it might seem like the series started because of the pandemic the truth is Volker started the series 10 years ago. While exploring the meaning of portraits and what people they would represent in history Volker was able to come to a unique realization. We actually don’t know much about the people in these portraits, we focus on the artist and the faces of the people and the techniques in which they painted but not who the subjects are.
Another thing Volker observed was that we often focus more on the face rather than the clothes but it’s within the clothing that we can learn more about the time period these people lived. Hermes often looks for portraits from the renaissance and 19th century where people would wear very elaborate and unique garments, and it’s then that Hermes discovered how to draw people’s attention back to the clothes. He started to digitally create masks out of already existing pieces of the outfits to cover the subjects’ faces. Now you can’t help but focus on the patterns, colors, flowers, and small details of the clothing and dive deeper into the culture of the past within a contemporary setting.
“I started to layer codes of our times over the codes of ancient times. Then the pandemic came and obviously masking our faces is an everyday issue now. So all of a sudden my work became of interest—then Instagram came across it and made it known to a wider audience.” – Volker Hermes (Via Vogue)
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