Perrotin Hong Kong is pleased to inaugurate its new location at K11 ATELIER Victoria Dockside with a group exhibition exploring meanings of portraiture through the lens of selected artists.
Featuring ten artists working from a range of cultures and practices, Kaleidoscopes: Contemporary Portraiture explores different manners of representation and self-representation, and the methods from which they are derived. Alternating between dualities of figuration/abstraction and introspection/perception, the exhibited works examine the formation of identity and humanistic ideals as they become subject to scrutiny and change.
Before the invention of the camera, a portrait, which would be painted, drawn, or sculpted, was the primary way to record the appearance of a person. As portraiture evolved from its documentary function to providing more abstract and revelatory representations, artists experimented with the form to portray themselves and their contemporaries in various vivid ways. With its human focus, portraiture captures the essence of individuals as well as their lived and perceived experiences, reflecting as much of its subject as the one who conjures the image into being.
Chen Fei’s (b. 1983, Hongtong, Shanxi, China) frequent incorporation of his own image probes into traditions of self-portraiture in the contexts of Western and Eastern art history. With a propensity for exquisite detail, vibrant color, and hard-edged lines, Chen creates lively compositions enacted by his self-insertions. Here within the tondo frame, a style popular during the Renaissance, Chen arranges a scene of quotidian drama gesturing toward a larger narrative, its cinematic quality blurring the lines between reality and the surreal.
I feel that the human body is a subject that will never cease to be explored—we can find 100 million examples in art. Humans are either clothed or nude. For me, painting clothed figures carries more direction, and the meaning within the painting will become particular and narrow. I do not intend to objectify or offend anyone’s body, and I am not interested in provoking anything. I think nudes are the most natural expressions. They appear in my work to fit the theme in the most appropriate manner. Every consideration is based on the work.
My work is not based on seeking a realistic representation–instead, it’s as you describe it, a parallel reality–but I don’t know where it might head in the future. This line of work, of creating art, changes as you age and your understanding of the world shifts.
Barry McGee (b. 1966, San Francisco, USA) employs an idiosyncratic visual language of stylized acronyms, sullen-faced caricatures, and groupings of panels that reflect the communality of his art and his adoption of multiple artistic personas. McGee’s thoughtful juxtaposition of elements, often informed by the artist’s interactions with the neighborhoods in which he resides, invites collaborative dialogues between art and community, arriving at creative harmonies beyond the individual.
This male figure is kind of like an everyman, but very specific to San Francisco, where there’s a huge homeless population that everyone wants to be free of…kind of like outcasts, things that the city is trying to get rid of, or trying to hide, or pretending doesn’t exist. With my work, I’m trying to reveal this.
With his bold, virtuosic use of line and color, Eddie Martinez (b. 1977 Groton Naval Base, Connecticut, USA) creates abstract compositions built upon congruous concepts and their artful manipulations. Drawing has always been central to Martinez’s practice as he chronicles his life through immediate sketches, which later become frameworks for many of his paintings. Enlarged and rendered onto canvas, the drawings constitute points of departure for Martinez as he builds up layers of texture and shape in bursts of raw creative energy.
I started drawing like most people at a very young age. For me it was just a very common activity, like being at a playground. I just really took to the act and continue to use it as a tool for navigation. I draw a lot, it’s obsessive and compulsive and natural.
Jean-Philippe Delhomme (b. 1959, Nanterre, France) presents an expressive figuration of the real through portraiture, conveying an authorly perception which serves as the common thread between the different forms of expression that he masters: drawing, writing, and painting. With a loose, spontaneous style, Delhomme portrays his subjects in person without preliminary sketching, capturing their eccentricities directly onto canvas with an effect of lightness.
From writers to painters, the key is to keep a flow of inspiration and be receptive, seeing things that keep you alert with the desire to do the next painting, and the more you’re in that state, the more subjects you see.
For Takashi Murakami (b. 1962, Tokyo, Japan), the act of self-portraiture is “something a painter must always strive to do…more than with any other subjects, a painter’s mental landscape of that moment gets encapsulated directly and blatantly into the painting. Whether it’s by da Vinci, Dürer, Rembrandt, or Goya, when you look at a self-portrait painting you can almost discern the evidence of the painter's life in its entirety, from their breathing and worries to state of health at the time of painting.”
— Excerpted from Takashi Murakami, Excuse Painting: What It Means to Self-Portrait (2019). Acrylic on canvas, 41.7 cm x 33.5 cm —
Aya Takano’s (b. 1976, Saitama, Japan) illustrative works express the spiritual union of humans, animals, and nature in a universe, where escaping reality, gravity, and other restraints is possible. Featuring adolescent, wide-eyed female figures drifting between eroticism and impertinence, Takano’s cast of mystical characters gestures toward a certain form of transcendence imagined from childhood.
When I was a kid, I daydreamed and stayed in my fantasy land by reading books and mangas all the time. I hated most designs of devices and buildings and I still do. I aspired to [obtain] freedom of spirit and I was very different from others. I still want to be like that, but I’m not able to…
Using the art form as a starting point, Kaleidoscopes: Contemporary Portraiture presents interpretations of the ways with which the human experience may be understood and transformed. Each portrait is an expression of the artist’s vision; altogether, they form a kaleidoscopic view of likeness at once familiar and destabilizing, a reflection invoking multiple narratives, states of being, and metamorphosing selves.
Photos: Ringo Cheung. Courtesy of the artists and Perrotin