Skin Deep’, an exhibition using portraiture and textiles to look at how ideas of beauty are fabricated. The show features two contemporary artists: Anne von Freyburg and Nigel Grimmer.
Nigel Grimmer combines male portrait photography with textiles to critique the superficiality of the online image. Many of his men have their faces obscured, interrupting the image as a challenge to the complacent viewer. The wrapping of photographs in found fabrics, and the addition of stickers and sweets, then echo in solid form the virtual patterns and emojis found in image apps.
All seek to emphasize how manipulated a seemingly natural portrait really is, as well as adding some sense of the tangible and ‘real’ to the fleeting digital image. Through this approach, Nigel uses the ‘photo as physical object’ as a way of disrupting the viewer’s customary sense of safe distance, and to establish a greater equality between the reader of the image and its subject.
Anne von Freyburg reconstructs Rococo portraits in stitched fabric and at a grand scale. Her imagery focuses on a stylised idea of feminine beauty as found in the tradition of Boucher and Fragonard. Appropriated portraits are recreated in ink and acrylic and then embellished by hand-stitching diverse fabrics to build up a visual feast with almost bodily presence.
Whilst on the one hand playful and referencing the decorative quality of their sources, the over-indulgence in these works also points to the excesses of throwaway fashion, selfies, and consumerism. The smorgasbord of mass-produced textiles underlines this, often pushing the work into the realm of kitsch and the grotesque, and illustrates how ideas of the beautiful are always constructed and highly subjective.