Kassan is a contemporary American painter who is known for his life sized and figurative paintings. His subjects are set against abstract backgrounds, which is a dual representation strategy. It is done to make paintings look both real and abstract. Through his paintings, he is able capture humanity in a completely different light.
His main aim has always been to capture the very essence of those he paints and imbibe them with their own voice. Through Kassan’s paintings, the viewer is transported to the subject’s psyche and thoroughly understands them. He preserves the emotions and thoughts of his subjects and casts them on his canvas to make them timeless.
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1977, Kassan went on to receive his Bachelors in Fine Arts from College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, New York. He then continued on with his studies at National Academy and the Art Students League of New York. With his Newington-Cropsy Foundation Travel Grant, he was able to go to Italy in 2003 and spend his summer there. During his time there, he did sketch studies of numerous masterworks, which continue to inspire his work.
Kassan’s Painting Technique
After studying extensively about human anatomy, Kassan has gained an extensive scientific knowledge about muscular structures that lie within the skin. With his adept draftsmanship and his mastery in oil paint, he represents his subjects exactly like he sees them. A great example of this are the stunning flesh tones in all of Kassan’s paintings.
To create a natural looking mesh skin, veins and blood, transparent layers of oil paint are built over each other. Along with this, he also plays with light which enters his subject and is reflected back, infusing luminosity. There is also a lot of movement and light under the clothing of his subjects. There is an interesting paradox in Kassan’s work as it moves from transformation to representation and reality to abstract.
For the surface of his painting, Kassan uses Dibond panel, which is originally made for sign makers. It is actually an aluminium composite material which does not warp. He then applies two coats of acrylic gesso primer to the canvas in order to make it smooth. It is very important for him to make the canvas as smooth as he can, to make his work look more real life, than a painting.
Famous Paintings by David Jon Kassan
Letter to My Mom
Kassan painted his own mother in this work and it is undoubtedly one of the best works by him. Kassan had stated that he had to bribe his mother to be his subject but it all worked out in the end since this painting was one of the three shortlisted paintings for 2014 BP Portrait Award at National Portrait Gallery, London.
This painting has a woman standing against a dirty graffiti ridden wall. Kassan gives his viewer the perfect amalgamation of calmness and chaos. With this painting, you experience absolute reality right in the middle of chaotic art
This is a painting of Kassan’s own son Lucas, when he was 3 months old. The work is beautifully done on graphite and the black and white colour makes the picture timeless. This painting was gifted by Kassan to his mother when she posed as a subject for him.
Grace in Profile
This oil on wood painting gives a very strong message to the viewer’s eye. The girl is so boldly looking through the canvas that you are left in a state of hypnotism.