One glimpse at Tyler Scully’s work sends an ice-cold chill down the spine.
Based in LA, Tyler paints nightmarish portraits that haunt like the climax of a David Lynch flick. Stripped of flesh and surrounded by wispy, colorful brushstrokes, his figures flash toothy, gumless grins below hollow nose bones and sunken ocular sockets. Trapped in shallow space, Tyler’s phantoms linger in purgatory, waiting to be whisked toward heaven or hell.
Drawing from Surrealism, traditional portraiture, and his Irish and Hawaiian background, Tyler creates expressionist work that lays bare the raw brutality of being human. Violently distorted, his work reveals humanity’s common denominator: flesh and bone. "Portraiture has traditionally been symbolic of wealth and status, but my work focuses on deconstructing portraiture to universal people that we can all connect with,” he explains. “The portraits transcend race, sex, gender, identity […] all these borders and identifiers we place to label each other become irrelevant when the portrait connects on a universal human level.”
This body of work represents Tyler’s studio practice from the last few years, marking a shift in his perspective on evil: “Before, I used to make very literal paintings of those I saw as villains”—think Donald Trump—“to be distorted and deformed, to match how I felt about them, while I now focus more on those feelings and transfer them to a more general figure to make it more universal,” he tells online arts magazine ArtRKL.
Wounded, traumatized, and sometimes playfully perverse, Tyler’s figures emphasize universal aspects of pain and fear. Although you’ll stare death right in the decomposing face, his work flickers from dark and dreary to achingly beautiful in a heartbeat, a study on the art of dying: “While my art can be read as crushing existentialism, it can conversely be read as the interconnection and universality of everyone that we all share in these emotions.”
"Portraiture has traditionally been symbolic of wealth and status, but my work focuses on deconstructing portraiture to universal people that we can all connect with.” — Tyler Scully
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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