Mabel, 1999 – Gillian Carnegie

Portraits, can at time be such a bore. Heads and shoulders of people who have had to sit for days in a set position, their expression dropping as the artist works their magic on a canvas. Sometimes the face isn’t even the best asset, so why are we so hell bent on capturing portraits? In the past it is true that they acted in the same way as the selfie trend does now, granted they were so easy to delete and retry if your duck face wasn’t on fleek though.

Carnegie offers a different type of portrait, with her cheeky view of her subject Mabel. This work is part of a series of “bum paintings” which repurpose the conventions of oil portraits. Carnegie’s work revisits traditions of still life, landscapes nd nudes and through the manipulation of light and framing gives the work emphasis on its expressive potential.

It’s a rather pert and lovely bottom in this picture, and the way that it has been painted gives the flesh the appearance of floating against the background, almost as if it is a segmented body part.

There is a sensual eroticism to the work, with the backside thrust out, almost inviting the viewer to caress it, shadows hiding the subject dignity, yet still exposing a sexuality. It very much reminds me of how Dali used segmented body parts to portray a message, although there is no message within Carnegie’s work aside from displaying the rounded cheeks of Mabel.

This particular painting is currently being displayed in the Whitechapel gallery in London, if you would like to visit or find out more you can find details here


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