dimanche 22 décembre 2013

Canadian Contemporary Art - 3. Russwurm Oils Evoke our Renaissance Women

If da Vinci was painting his Mona today, or Clouet was painting one of his bawdy Renaissance women, the subjects may well have looked like Liana Russwurm’s “Judy” on exhibition now at Chatham’s Thames Art Gallery.
Russwurm’s masculine, rich oils, traditional woodsy browns, maroons and 1500 blueish-blacks, evoke a portrait typical of the Renaissance or Baroque period, but Russwurm’s subjects are certainly not your everyday aristocrats! The “Mona Lisa” is probably the most parodied and viewed portrait in the World, and yet those same colours are evident in Russwurm’s “Americana” woman:   a full-bodied female covered head to toe in various tattoos and a short leopard-print skirt. Is this our contemporary “Mona” with the scandalous smirk at society? “Americana” even provides a tapestry rug in the background, completing the illusion of age.

“The Judy” has that same layered oil look in 1500 colours. There is even a “portrait” within the portrait which has caused some controversy about the subject. Judy is a ‘small woman’ without arms; the portrait within the portrait of Judy contains a dressmaker’s mannequin torso, the same size as Judy. And like “Americana”, Judy has a scowl on her face and spiky blue and pink in-your-face hair.

Are these our contemporary “Monas”? These richly painted, ‘rough-around-the-edges’ women? In 500 years, will people be lining up to get a view of “The Judy”? Will she have a nickname too? It is interesting that Russwurm has chosen these specific oil colours to complete these portraits. What does she say about us?

Ian McLean’s “Guy Wire” is another study in colour. His use of oils, while not Renaissance, give the viewer a creepy, Sci-Fi feeling to the painting. His wood house study in night-glowing blues and greens make you feel as if the entire room has just been covered in nuclear radiation fallout. There are no people. There is a house, a woods, and the bizarre blue and green hue of a horror flick, or the Northern Lights. You decide.

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