Celebrated artist Alberto Giacometti once said, “The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.” Giacometti was an artist noted for his abstraction and deconstruction of the human form, which he depicted through a multitude of sculptures, paintings and drawings in elongated shape and scumbled lines. Figurative paintings and portraiture are nothing new, yet subgenres of portraiture continue to emerge, survive and move us. The common phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” aptly applies, and the activation of perception, observation and process are represented in beautiful and intricate ways in the four contemporary artists whose work is featured here. Featured artists include: Karim Hamid, Colin Chillag, Borondo and Angela Fraleigh.
Karim Hamid is a Rhode Island based painter whose works center on the female form and are centrally informed by the intangible psychological interaction of observation and “the male gaze.” Working with distortion on the form itself, Hamid takes it a step further by then also deconstructing his development of the painting, seemingly in examination of himself as the observer. About this Hamid says, “While the imagery is often distorted or exaggerated in my work, I also expect my work to express itself within its own polemical and painterly distortion of that distortion. It is about the thing/person being observed, as well as the method of being observed.” Hamid’s use of color and the aggression of crisp line juxtaposed with generalized shapes make his works a diverse terrain in which the grotesque and the deliciously graceful meld into a solid whole.
Colin Chillag is a painter who has mastered the balancing of filthy and clean in his work into flawless compositions that brilliantly activate swatches of color studies, scribbles and notes into necessary parts of the whole. Based out of Arizona, Chillag captures the blown out crisp desert light so well in his portraits, of which the completed areas are immensely photorealistic. When viewed in person one can see how textural they become- unexpected swirls and intentional fingerprints become visible on the surface of oil paint so thick it is nearly sculptural. The unfinished areas lend a paint-by-number quality to the paintings, drawing viewers into the process of the imagery taking shape. Certain paintings even bear notes the artist makes to himself, such as a curator’s phone number jotted down on the canvas, drawing the viewer further into the artist’s studio process, the thoughts and small moments behind the scenes.
Borondo is a prolific artist based out of Spain who at the young age of 23 has made tremendous strides in bridging two seemingly disconnected genres: abstract portraiture and street art. His psychologically loaded paintings of faces and the human form are highly textural and loose orchestrations of huge brush strokes of paint. Ranging from works that are more monochromatic to other works which involve a wide ranging palette hinting at flesh undertones, Borondo’s works have been executed in a vast variety of environments and pop up across the globe. Between works painted on bus stops, factories and old apartments, to works on plexiglass currently installed at White Walls Gallery in San Francisco in the Graffuturism group exhibition, the varying surfaces, scale and textures of Borondo’s work successfully teeter in between multiple worlds, always delivering a hybrid of poetry and grit .
Angela Fraleigh’s works are dynamic, powerful and energetic depictions wherein the subjects seem to be simultaneously caught in a dance and a struggle with the pigment. In her artist statement she says, “Questioning social constructs of beauty, class, gender and role play, I am interested in the complications of desire, what power people have available to them and how they use that power.” Her works are highly narrative, yet the artist strips away any signifier to the subject’s identity or story and instead pushes the kinetics of human interaction. Her demonstration of physical struggle within the works become mostly psychological and energetic through the presence of the paint and it’s presence as an abstracted entity.