Imaging the Face
: An Investigation into Hyperrealist Depictions of the Human Facial Surface

  • Michael David Roberts

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis details a practice-led investigation into the potential for a hyperrealist rendering of the human face through painting. The primary objective of this practice is to ascertain the best means of conveying sensation and evoking experiences incurred when conducting a sustained visual analysis of the facial features. Traditional portrait imagery utilises the face as the most immediate means of identification in depicting the identity and personality of the human subject. This thesis examines the ways in which our familiarity of portrait conventions impacts on the way in which facial images, in general, are interpreted. Therefore, the conceptual framework underpinning the practical element of this project, aims to reduce the significance of the individual and the potential for physiognomic interpretations within the facial image. This study is informed by philosophical notions surrounding the way in which images function as communicative devices, in order to find possibilities for facial imaging that avoid the signification of individuality. This study presents an exposition of ideas examining the ways in which a lack of a prescribed meaning within a painting can accentuate the ability of a painting to generate sensations. The physical implementation of the conceptual framework combines hyperrealist methods with realist methods and techniques to achieve a visual approximation of the facial surface in order to recollect bodily experience of sight and touch within the viewer. An account of the techniques and methods used to implement this conceptual framework are detailed. In producing these facial images, my original contribution to the field of portraiture is to demonstrate that a reduction of individualisation in the process of imaging the face, in conjunction with an increase of surface information, promotes sensations within the viewer that connect to bodily experience of vision, touch and memories of flesh and skin.
Date of Award25 Jun 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJohn Harvey (Supervisor) & Simon Pierse (Supervisor)

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