The portraits of artist Ryan Hewett invoke an uncanny sense of familiarity and mystery, as each painting leaves you searching the faces of his subjects for their true identity. The artist uses thick brush strokes and heavy paint to build up compelling palettes across his subject’s facial features. Dense globs of pinks and reds are built up, forming an impression of each person’s identity. In his series Order, Hewett’s impasto technique provides a stark contrast to the smooth, soft texture that is often present in his backgrounds as well as the bodies of his subjects. Hewett’s incredible style brings to mind the fleshy, expressive paint strokes present in the work of Frances Bacon.

There is a psychological element to Hewett’s portraits that is as beautiful as it is distinctive. Hewett’s website explains, “His portraits are not life-like depictions, but rather abstracted representations of his subjects.” Perhaps this abstraction reflects the subject’s inner psyche rather than their actual identity. Although the viewer cannot see the details of the individual person’s identity, something else can be sensed instead. An element of secrecy and intrigue is held in each thick brush strokes, hiding what is just beneath the surface.

The South African artist has shown his captivating portraits all over the world in cities like Berlin, Miami, Cape Town, London and New York City.