Art can be a great tool for self-reflection: it engages us analytically and initiates emotions and memories. It is also a tool for the artist to unearth certain truths through self-portraiture and connect with their viewer in a more intimate way. In the last few years, we’ve seen a resurgence of strong figurative work (which was put on the back-burner for the majority of the 20th century) and more specifically, the self-portrait. Often the subtext of these works are allegorical, surrealistic or more commonly a critic of how the modern world chooses to value identity and self. A few artists that have caught my eye recently and why:
R.F. Alvarez: Beginning with a text-based practice, Alvarez has spoken to his personal experience as a gay man with poetic ease. His newest body of works dive deeper into intimacy through self-portraiture and compositions that represent private moments in his relationship and at home.
Anthony Cudahy: Cudahy’s work could easily be defined by his saturated palettes of intimate, everyday moments. The multidisciplinary artist combines his passion for photography and archival work to produce unique paintings. The bright hues such as green, yellow and red mixed with people in motion remind me of being in a fever dream. It feels neither positive or negative and does not try to romanticize portraiture or the queer experience.
Chloe Wise: Chloe’s practice includes self-portraits, everyday objects and contemporary fashion by means of friends and muses. Her approach is more satirical than allegorical. Each subject has an incredible amount of depth and character yet there is a veneer to them that is not quite real. A familiar feeling of unease arises. How do we think of identity and self-representation in the internet era?
Lilian Martinez: Lillian’s work is a celebration of self. The Mexican-American artist simplifies the body, letting it expand across the canvas as a flat plane usually partaking in an everyday activity. The bold style is softened by warm hues and a playfulness that doesn’t ask anything of its viewer but still represents a body that has been criticized or omitted completely in contemporary culture.