Oil painting of white woman with red earrings and red stiching detail in her blouse
Images provided by Ivan Alifan.

I believe a good work is work that makes the viewer “nervous”, a work that haunts the viewer, to me that is beauty.

In the history of art if you could paint a realistic portrait of the person then you could paint anything in the world. That notion is still believed today, because a “face” is the most complex object in the world. One wrong stroke of the brush and the face is no longer representing the model and it is believed that the artist has failed.

That intense difficulty is what first got me interested in portraiture because I love giving myself hard tasks to accomplish. I did a replica of the “Girl of the Pearl Earring” in 12th grade. At that point I felt I had achieved the realism that I had always wanted. Now that I’m 23 accurately representing a face was no longer my main intention. I have realized that those imperfections or mistakes that artists make are beautiful. Because regardless of whom you are painting in the portrait, you are always painting a portrait of yourself. It is those imperfections that make up your character in your art.

Oil painting of white woman with scarve with red folk embroidery

The portraits that I paint say more about myself than they do about the sitter. I think this is also the main reason why I believe portraiture is still relevant today – this intensity to the relationship between artist and the sitter which produces a different meaning or aura than photography. So today my goal is not to paint accurately but to push portraiture to a new level.

Oil painting of androgynous bald woman with white painting dripping erotically down her head

My quest for traditional beauty is slowly disappearing…I believe a good work is work that makes the viewer “nervous”, a work that that haunts the viewer, to me that is beauty. If my work creates a physical or physiological tension or drama for the viewer then I’m doing a good job.

Oil painting of androgynous looking bald white woman with white paint dripping down her face holding a rose in her hand seductively as though she is about to eat it
Images provided by Ivan Alifan.

View more of Ivan’s work on his website and his blog.
Follow Ivan on twitter @IvanAlifan or Facebook.

Get ticket info for the show as well view all the participating artists at or follow along for updates @TAP_toronto & #TAP13.

logo for Toronto Artist Project 2013 in dark blue with image of woman in profile with veil like cutout over her eyes