Lights Are On But Nobody's Home: Standpoint Gallery, London
GLENN BROWN, JEMIMA BROWN, TOBY CHRISTIAN, SAM DARGAN, NADINE FEINSON, NICK HORNBY, LIANE LANG, FIONA MACDONALD
Exhibition: 24 June - 23 July 2011
Light's Are On But Nobody's Home celebrates a resurgence of portraiture in contemporary practice, but particularly a current fascination with the obscured, cheating or adulterated visage.
Suggestive of the inability to locate a subject, which has both scientific and theoretical bases, the works presented deal in what might even be described as anti-portraiture, a conscious refusal to allow the 'meeting' to happen between the viewer and the person portrayed, so denying the (historically) central purpose of the portrait.
Glenn Brown's series Layered Portraits refigure several portrait etchings by Lucien Freud, Rembrandt or Urs Graf, layering one atop another until the face dissolves into a puddle of blackness. This blackness draws us into relationship with what seems like an unknowable other, all the more imposing for his/her indistinctness. This process is mirrored in sculptural form by Nick Hornby, whose 'trybrids' blend three portrait busts into one by virtualising the merging on computer, then turning the result into cast marble resin. The result is suggestive of genetic modification gone to mayhem - a beautiful monsterization, and the almost total loss of humanity.
Nadine Feinson sees painting as a medium of potential motion. She plays with the notion of an unstable, dissembling image, taking inspiration from modern scientific and philosophical concepts of perception and emergence. Her Heads loom out from the intense activity of her surfaces, to which it seems they may soon return. Fiona MacDonald's paintings and sculptures are similarly charged with a time-based energy, the tandem sense of growth and decomposition implying a technological fast-forward and rewind. Her interest in the slipperiness of reality as concept is informed by the increasingly vulnerable and mutable idea of selfhood revealed by neuroscience.
Jemima Brown uses sculpture, drawing and time based media to create humanoid avatars occupying a zone between the animate and the inanimate. Liane Lang creates realistic sculptural figures through casting, using these as props in her staged photographic and video works. In both instances the uncanny encounter is convened and sustained through a strong sense of presence, even as we know that the figures are not 'real'.
SamDargan's small intense portrait series Heroes and Villains of Future Generic Socialist Republic depict the embattled individuals of a corporate nightmare future, making sorry attempts to escape their bland fate by painting the masks of superheroes onto their pudgy faces. Toby Christian's piece The Pianist is a nearly empty tails jacket with a 'Rodin' sculpture sewn into the sleeve. It creates a strange piece of ephemera from a performance that didn't happen, suggesting the absence of the subject - the abject remnants standing for the invisible, unattainable whole.