Volker Hermes is internationally renowned for his ‘Hidden Portraits’ that make digital interventions into historical portrait paintings. Taking textures and patterns from within the antique image, he creates masks and new adornments that obscure the sitters’ faces and in the process sheds new insight on how fashion functions in historical imagery. This distinctive approach has seen collaborations with the Metropolitan Museum and Christies n New York, and Leighton House in the UK amongst many others.
Volker’s ‘Hidden Portraits’ are playful and mischievous; they delight in the sensory exuberance of historical dress. But they also help us to understand how historical portraiture operated in its original context. Of how elements such as fabric, opulence, and armour were used to create an image not simply of a person, but also of a society, its values and its hierarchies. The symbolic nuances would have been obvious to viewers at the time, yet to us they are at best obscured if not totally forgotten. As a result we often focus more on the individual within and perceive their attire as only superficial decoration. By obscuring that character’s face and bringing these accoutrements to the fore, Volker’s work brings the focus back on how a society’s codes and values are expressed through fashion, whilst also then evaluating them with a contemporary sensibility.