Scottish artist Sarah Muirhead creates mesmerizing, nude paintings that are masterful in more ways than one. Her work is masterful in that it is very skillful, but also in that the subjects of her paintings are in control of their audience. Wanting to steer clear of creating nudes that are submissive to our gaze, Muirhead creates tension filled situations where the nude subject is staring at right back at you. Her subjects are not passive, but instead embody an incredible strength that challenges their audience. Each subject has a somewhat inviting stare, but still holds a control over the situation in their powerful, contorted stances and positions. In the artist’s new paintings, many of her subjects are bound by rope or string; others have intriguing elements like white, chalky substances all over their bodies.
Muirhead’s paintings are both unique and impressive, with an incredible eye for detail and color. However, her work is not entirely photorealistic. They explore this texture of the body in expressive ways. Muirhead is interested in patterns and textures, which you can see on her subject’s skin and hair. In one painting, the hair texture is emphasized by a woman grabbing her own hair and attempting to bite it. In another painting, skin texture and color is further explored and manipulated by depicting a nude posing with digital images projected onto her body and surroundings. Each subject is in mid motion, adding another dynamic element to Muirhead’s already multifaceted work. You can see Muirhead’s wonderfully tactile paintings on view now at Leyden Gallery in London until June 27th.