Thursday, September 21, 2017

(Over) Refined Faces

My series of gouache on paper study paintings, titled Refined Faces, continues a long exploration of idealised, homogenised beauty. The kind of beauty that used to be an openly constructed, aspirational fantasy. But is now endlessly emulated by women on social media, often as a way of inserting themselves into advertising. It is a cartoon beauty – to which we are becoming increasingly accustomed thanks to airbrushing, filters and selfies taken at angles that 'improve' the curves and symmetry of bodies and faces. The aesthetic that spills into everyday life. These days, foundations are marketed using the terminology of airbrushing and Photoshop, promising to 'blur' the appearance of pores, blemishes and fine lines to create 'flaw-less, photo-perfect' skin. Even the bone structure of our faces can be temporarily altered using contouring make-up (once used only in film and professional photoshoots, in part to counter bright lighting which flattened facial features).

It feels good to look at my Refined Face paintings because the colours, lines, symmetry and seamless application of paint are harmonious. But they are an illusion. To paraphrase RenĂ© Magritte, they are treacherous images: this is not a woman, it is a representation of a woman. The facial features are an impossible ideal. However we have become so well trained by advertising and pop culture that instead of recognising and taking pleasure in (or intellectually considering) these representations, we women often compare ourselves – or others compare us – to them. And then we attempt to re-create ourselves to match.


Above:
Study for Refined Face, Cowgirl, 2017. Gouache on 300gsm 100% cotton watercolour paper in medium texture. Image size 17cm x 28cm, paper size 29.7cm x 42cm.

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