The faces of Pris Roos’ paintings are drawn from the world around her. Some are passing impressions in her neighborhood, some are the regular customers at the toko of her parents, and some portraits are painted in tribute to the creatives with which she shares her community.
Pris Roos works on a table stretching two meters, surrounded by over two hundred colours of oil paint and oil pastels. Each scene starts as a pencil sketch. Her work on paper is then immediately enhanced with a layer of oil pastels, a medium she adopted during her time as city artist of Rotterdam, when she had to work quickly so that the work could be archived. The artist likes to dive into her flow, enjoying the agility of her process, the movement of her own hand over the canvas. When using oil paint, she uses brown linen or black canvas. “The white canvas is too domineering. I never use white paper or white canvas,” she explains. Texture emerges in layers of paint to highlight the hair and clothing of her subjects, details that contrast with the soft focus of their faces. “Faces are blurred because I often encounter people in passing so I’m working based off an impression, but even my photographs are blurry.”
Pris Roos caters to this blur with great care and tenderness. The expressions she fills in intrigue the viewer, especially as the subjects’ gaze is often downturned, looking at something beyond the frame or lost in thought. In this way the artist captures an essential quality of urban life: the bustling populations come down to a multitude of individuals, each with their own universe. When looking at Door Alexandre gezien (2021) or Maas en Celtics (2021), the viewer is overcome with questions in the face of these pure compositions. What are they thinking about? Where are they going? There is a sense of closeness to the subjects, courtesy of the artist’s empathetic rendering. The viewer is truly among them as they commune. In the series of five portraits of key figures of Dutch streetwear, Pris creates this effect by playing with perspective. In one painting, the viewer is face to face with Daily Paper cofounder Abderr Trabsini, arms crossed and thoughts wandering. In another, we are standing behind him, watching him in conversation.
The impressions fold in and out of each other as collages that can be combined into various constellations and brings to mind the artist’s comic book inspirations, a compilation of panels. The versatility of each series captures the dynamism of the city and the people in it. It also means the work contains a unique sense of temporality: they are not just scenes, they are situations, whether that be an afternoon at the toko or the solemn movement of an anti-racism protest march.