Despite calling his exhibition at Marlborough Gallery, The Subject is Not the Subject, Jason Brooks also concedes that the nine meticulously executed portraits, which form one section of the show, all portray very distinct people, well known and admired by the artist for “applying their discerning eye to what they do”. These specially-selected individuals include the writer Will Self, the photographer Don McCullin, designer Erdem and artist Sue Webster as well as the Royal Academy’s artistic director Tim Marlow, who was in lively conversation with Brooks at the Arts Club in Dover Street last night. “I’ve spent a lot of time looking at you,” declared Brooks, with what almost sounded like a hint of menace as the two began their talk. For his part, Marlow agreed that, such is the forensically detailed way in which Brooks builds up his images, the artist had undoubtedly spent more time scrutinising and contemplating his face than either Marlow himself or his wife.
Brooks gave an account of how his giant images emerge out of a composite of sources including photographs and drawings as well as his memory of the individual’s presence in his studio. Yet despite the painstakingly laborious building-up of the details, the immediate effect of these most distinctive portraits is of a direct, intimate and immediate encounter; foibles, follicles and all. As Brooks puts it, “it’s about airbrushing everything in, not out”. Or as Mrs Marlow apparently declared on seeing the likeness of her husband, “It’s got a sleazy eye and a double chin—it looks just like you!” But last night everyone agreed that, when walking into the Marlborough’s upstairs gallery lined with these uniquely intensely portrayed individuals, the eyes certainly have it.
• Jason Brooks: the Subject is Not the Subject, Marlborough Fine Art, until 10 March