Brian Donnelly and his fascinating face-melting portraits

Brian Donnelly, an artist based in Toronto, creates face-melting portraits. His artwork explores the definition of what is classed as art and what is not. He does this by trying to answer the question, “what is the breaking point at which destroyed artwork stops being artwork and becomes trash?”. So, he paints unusual oil portraits with a visual trial effect.


Brian graduated from Ontario College of Art and Design in 2003. Since then, he has spent his time concentrating on a process of ‘building things up, taking them down, rearranging and reconsidering’ It has been through this process that he discovered this effect. He says that the 50 acid attacks launched by Hans Bohlmann against various masterpieces ‘sparked an interesting idea’ for him.  ‘I wondered if art that had been disfigured could be considered transitory or if its definition of artwork is washed away with the surface’

Brian then began the process of development to find the chemical that could produce his desired effect – which was to liquefy the paint structure but leave it sufficiently intact to leave the coloured trails. This creates the face – melting effect.

So, how is the effect achieved?

Well, the effect is achieved through spraying a cocktail of turpentine and hand sanitizer onto the portraits. This is done whilst the paint is still wet. It creates a mesmerising effect of the face melting! He uses complimenting colours which create subtle but unmissable paintings which distort and warp part of the figures face.


He has since spent his time and artistic preoccupation experimenting with how far art can be destroyed or warped but still remain as art. What do you think?

You can view more on his website –

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