Friday, 7 October 2011

Recent Paintings for Rendezvous Focus Painting @ Aardklop 2011

Ann-Marie Tully, Kit Cat Infanta – Hear no evil
(triptych), oil on paper, linen and cotton thread.
450mm x 540mm

Ann-Marie Tully, Kit Cat Infanta – In Landscape
(triptych), oil on paper, linen and cotton thread.
450mm x 540mm

Ann-Marie Tully, Kit Cat Infanta (triptych),
oil on paper and cotton thread.
450mm x 540mm

These oil on paper works are part of my long standing interest in the work of the Spanish Royal Court painters Velázquez and Goya. In my mind the work of these painters remains an indissoluble resource of mark, method and meaning. The series, Kit Cat Infantas, references Velázquez’ paintings of the princesses of the Spanish Royal Court: Mariana of Austria (1652), a portrait of the young Austrian princess married at the tender age of fifteen to her Uncle Philip IV; Las Meninas (1656), a group portrait including the monarchs Philip and Mariana, and the centrally positioned young Infanta Margarita, flanked by her ladies in waiting; and a portrait of the Infanta Margarita wearing a pink and grey gown, with a particularly wide skirt.

These images are fascinating glimpses of the legacy of womanhood as a learnt and fashioned objectification. The clumsy and ostentatious dresses (a foil for painterly alacrity), consume their wearers, rather than adorn them. These girl/women appear more statue than child, poised in a ‘farthingale’ prison. I am struck by their expressions of dumb indifference; cat-like in their disaffection and sense of self importance. In art historical terms the cat is a creature paired with women as an insinuation of infidelity, conceit and suspect independence. This line of reductive thinking is not however what these paintings are about. The association (in simile, metaphor and metonym) of woman, animal and object does a disservice to all concerned, and serves the fingertip reflexes of paternalistic society. These paintings parody the notion of the woman-animal-thing.

Paint is an integral part of this rhetorical exercise. The courtly dresses become the focus of an indulgent painterly activity. These painted gowns completely over-reach their role as adornment, to visually dominate the frame; and foreground the infantile status of these woman/children. The disaffected faces of the princesses are transformed in various ways to be more cat-like (hair lips, cat ears and eyes, and whiskers), drawing attention to the contrived slippage between woman and animal. The transformation of the human essential form also points to a bewitching model − a reference to wide spread modes of oppression against women and animals such as witch hunting. The stitched mark is literally a disruption not only of the page and the painterly illusion, but also of the myth of femininity and animality, while also enacting a ‘penetrative’ violence against the image itself.

The Rendezvous Art Project is a non-profit organisation founded in 2007 to broaden relationships between business, educational institutions and professional contemporary artists on a national and international level. Rendezvous Focus Painting gives artists the oppertunity to take part in an exchange project between painters from South Africa, France and Greece. This, the fourth Rendezvous Project consists of a travelling exhibition (2011-2012) of works by sixty artists using paint as an exclusive medium. This exhibition opened at the Aardklop National Arts Festival at the North-West University and will travel to the Michaelis Gallery at the University of Cape Town, the Oliewenhuis Museum in Bloemfontein, and the University of Johannesburg Gallery.

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