Get your photo painted in watercolour by David Risley

‘Fictions can, with discretion, be employed in the service of reality. That idea comes to mind when considering David Risley’s (b. 1972, United Kingdom) latest batch of watercolor portraits, which he prefers to call paintings. Risley has, I know, been hard at work on similar paintings since before quarantine. Portrayals of his nearest and dearest (partner Jeanette, daughter Alva, stepsons Einer and Volmer), depictions of neighbors that reside in his building in Copenhagen (Skaley, a hairdresser from Ghana, for instance, shares a storefront at Vesterbrogade 77), likenesses of friends (among them, artists James Aldridge and Alex Da Corte), but also a sideline in pictures of acquaintances and others commissioned directly via his Instagram account and website.

Risley says he relishes his role as a technician in making these pictures. I find his satisfaction more than reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s wish to become “a [screen-printing] machine.” But what sort of pictures emerge from this artist’s production line? Risley’s paintings, like portraiture itself, offer an opportunity to connect with the person or persons portrayed while gaining insights into social, cultural, political and private histories that no other type of painting can offer. Today—with an epic assist from social media—portraits continue to partake of a mirroring magic that makes people believe they are encountering a real person; or, at least, a skillfully curated ensemble of personal traits. Yet, as Risley points out, portraiture, unlike other genres, must still satisfy a demand as old as the Pharaohs: “It has to be successful as a service, as a commission.” “Like anything in the history of portraiture,” he explains, “if [the subjects] don’t like it, it fails.”

Christian Viveros-Fauné Brooklyn, 2022


  1. Choose a favourite photograph
  2. David will paint a watercolour based on the photograph and frame it (60x42cm)

ESTIMATE: USD 6,000 – USD 12,000

ESTIMATE: SEK 67,000 – SEK 133,000