Paintings by Ashton Carless
Commentary by Amelia Anthony
“Theo, I am so very happy with my paintbox, and I think my getting it now, after having drawn almost exclusively for at least a year, better than if I had started with it immediately… For, Theo, with painting my real career begins. Don’t you think I am right to consider it so?”
–Vincent van Gogh, on becoming a painter.
Ashton has been working fervently on his art portfolio, but his artistry extends beyond an AP exam and beyond the glimpses of half-done work I get on Snapchat. This time around, we have seen his social commentary on alcoholism, religion, school newspaper pro-cons. We know his technique and his dedication with the thousands of little lines in illustration.
But we have not yet seen the way that Ashton peers at himself or the people around him.
We have not yet seen his grip on a paintbrush.
The newest series of portraits are completed in oil paints. They feature bright color, and highly accurate color (observe the careful bone structures!). Each man avoids the gaze of the viewer, but in different senses. We see Lachlan’s nonchalance, the Dancer’s preoccupation, and a gentle shyness when Ashton turns the mirror back onto himself. Masculinity is hinted at, but only positively: in beauty, in action, in labor. The fragile botanical backgrounds each offer gentle criticism to hyper-masculine norms of strength, power, and hardness.
Ashton used to allude to van Gogh’s early lined illustrations. But his progress in the past year matured and refined this allusion. Now, van Gogh is not mirrored now in style, but in message. Ashton is an artist with kind, smart eyes, eyes wise like Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat. Vincent found himself a “real” with a paintbox. I think that Ashton has too.
Ashton Carless is 17 and attends South Pasadena High School, where he is enrolled in AP Studio Art. See his past features here, and his work for Tiger Newspaper here. When he’s not too busy talking about how Bob Dylan is an acquired taste, he is available for commissioned work at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ashton’s features are part of Tunnel’s work with change over time, which you can read more about here.