A Passion for Faces

I know I uploaded a picture of the same book as my Weekly Snap but I did write a review of the book for the local newspaper I freelance for and I thought I’d post a few of the paragraphs here on my blog for you all to see as well.

A human race has a few faces which show again and again in far apart places. Lift the curtains of differing tones to see the same forms appear in the planes and facial geometry.


As a native of Sri Lanka, Barbara Sansoni has seen many a varied featured faces. Her most recent book of drawings – A Passion for Faces – includes these very faces that captured her eye and thoughts.

I’ve yet to come across something I don’t like in this book. It’s quite hefty and leans more towards a coffee table kind of book but I’d also like seeing it on personal libraries in line with others in relation to art and history. Yes, I’ve gone and said it, history. Why you may ask is that I classified this as a historic type of book? Simply because I find the drawings of faces to be of those that combine the likes of traders who came into our island in search of goods and trade, foreign inhabitants who have heard tales of our beautiful island and continued to stay on and also those who have inter-married into local families. These are the faces of people from the past.

Dark skinned
Dark skinned

I happen to like the black and white pencil drawings the most in the book although it does include coloured drawings. To me, black and white seems to say more than a coloured picture and in this case, the same goes for the faces. It’s easier to read between the forehead lines and the cracks of the smiles, rather than having to look through the browns, nudes and tans of vibrancy. This way, one cannot always tell the cultural origin of the person one is looking at. A black and white drawing can only say so much. In this way, everyone looks like they belong to one race, class, creed and culture.

Then again, I also love the muted use of colour. There are pops of cobalt blue and sunny yellows but somehow they remain muted against the more prominent facial expressions.

One also has to admire the intensity of the eyes. They say that eyes denote the very feelings felt within one’s heart and there’s absolute innocence in every face in the book. I love that Sansoni kept it that way, intentionally or unintentionally.

‘How can I seize the laughing, flashing movement of this face?’ she questions, ‘the distortions of a smile when cheek pushes eye and teeth flash brilliantly, the pose of the head, on a neck through the arms, to the acrobatic fingers of a dancer?’.

Beautiful and captivating
Beautiful and captivating

She certainly is able to capture it somehow. It’s in the way she uses her lines and curves. After all, all faces are made up of lines and curves. The hint of a chuckle at the back of the smile and a twinkle beneath the eyes truly make her drawings more realistic than imagined. She has a knack for visualizing light and depth from a distance that make her drawings what they are.

‘Why does one draw faces? For the same reason one draws a house. To draw is to take delight in the subject one draws, to get to know it and posses it.’ Sansoni explains that it is a challenge painting and drawing her visual experiences rather than just copying the object. ‘History doesn’t make ugly things beautiful, but age does. A face after all is a house, built centuries ago by genes’.

Well said.


*Images sent by Barefoot Gallery*


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