Why do we find depictions of the face and figure to be endlessly compelling? Perhaps it is the power of the portraiture to create clarity around the incoherent jumble of human emotions. In Portrait of a Figure, curator Rebecca George curated international artists from seven countries portraying the human form to convey vulnerability, love, confusion, uncertainty, hopelessness, humor, power, defiance and peace.
An international group exhibition that takes a deeper look at the variety and inventiveness surfacing around the face, the body and ways of depicting it and imbuing it with meaning. Our identification with the portrait and the figure enables artists to push the limits of recognizability to its breaking point, allowing a vast range of interpretations while remaining undeniably human. This exhibition juxtaposes styles, approaches and technique being employed by contemporary artists utilizing the human body in their work.”Rebecca George
A highlight of this international exhibition is Pandemic, by Russian artist Ksenia Sandesco. Conveying sadness and repose the work is painted in a lush style. The atmosphere, sensuality and expressiveness evoke Gustav Klimt, but also has elements of surrealism that are underscored by the abstract treatment of the background.
Another intriguing work is by Brazilian artist Susana Goienetxe. This mixed media piece also has a haunting, surreal feeling, titled Of The Series in the Obscure. It is one of more than 80 images made during the first few months of lockdown. According to the artist, they are “representations of mental states, feelings and hallucinations caused by life situations where the dark, frightening, confused, enigmatic, unintelligible, mysterious and vague prevail.”
Referring to the events in the United States of the last year or so, 1619-BLM by American artist Michael Barlow juxtaposes dramatic scenes and symbols during the pandemic with iconic images of Black people from the last century. The composition is full of tension and movement. Barlow includes a partial portrait of a face with eyes wide open in an expression of watchful anxiety.
Subject/Object is a soft sculpture and body object that Ann-Maj Risgaard-Nielsen created to explore the emotion of hopelessness in the context of the female form. A student at the Swedish School of Textiles, Risgaard-Nielsen documents her experiments wearing this “body object” on Instagram.
But in the midst of these chaotic times, we also find artists reasserting a personal sense of agency and control. The German artist Meta Roller brings a bit of humor with a painting of a woman who has put bandages over her eyes. But this is meant to be provocative in the sense that the work questions our obligation to be drawn into the issue of the moment. The artist describes the painting of “girl with the red stripes” as “an artistic confrontation with the possibility not to have to participate in everything, not to see and hear every triviality, to decide for oneself what is important. The right to refuse, to remain undressed and to choose what one wants to participate in.”
Like Meta Roller, American artist Ralph “Nunzi” Annunziata’s work is also aligned with the theme of taking back control of our lives, or more precisely our emotions. The artist writes that this work is inspired by his early morning practice of mediation and the intention to hold on to compassion, feel love, and “gaze into the continual abyss of all time and space and breathe peace.” He notes, following Thoreau, that “the question is not what you look at but what you see.”
Ralph “Nunzi” Annunziata (United States)
Michael Barlow (United States)
Kristen Beaulieu (United States)
Sarah J. Berman (United States)
Stasi Bobo-Ligon (United States)
Luigi Francischello (Italy)
Susana Goienetxe (Brazil)
Jackie Kleban (United States)
Beth LeFauve (United States)
Ann-Maj Risgaard-Nielsen (Sweden)
Meta Roller (Germany)
Giuliano Sacchèro (Italy)
Ksenia Sandesko (Russian Federation)
To stay up to date with contemporary artists at work throughout the world today, follow @thearthousegallery, @rebecca.arthouse and @lonelyocean.art on Instagram.