Oliver Jeffers’ Dipped Painting Project explores time’s effect on memory, and the importance storytelling has on our identity. Already 6 years underway, the project will conclude only after more than a decade of portraits and accompany performances are complete; the body of work evolving across multiple countries and venues in the form of paintings, performance artifacts and collected interviews, all culminating in a feature length film and a retrospective of the project’s entirety.
Jeffers selects sitters for his portraits with the unifying thread of all having encountered death close hand. Each subject is interviewed at length about his or her experience, and the interview is used to compose the way in which their portrait is painted. Each painting takes anywhere from weeks to months to complete, and no photographs exist of the process. Each painting is then paired with an antique frame from a collection that Jeffers has been amassing over several years- each frame, found empty, has memories of its own. In tandem with the painting, the original sitter interview is handwritten meticulously onto a sheet of paper used during the performance to catch the drips of paint, and subsequently born into an additional piece, the Drip Sheets.
In submerging his carefully rendered portraits into vats of brightly colored paint over a series of performances, Oliver Jeffers’ dipped paintings vibrate between creation and loss. The portraits are entirely unrecorded prior to their dipping, the only people to see the completed, unobstructed work are the handful of witnesses invited to view. In the end, the sole documentation of the unobscured pieces are the memories of those present to the moment they are lowered into the paint. Their testimony is the only surviving documentation of the original portrait.
The witnesses to the performances are interviewed again, several months later, to see how much their memory has altered or faded.
At this point in the project, it seems that people are no more than the stories they tell, they are told, or are told about them.