I Have My Eye On You
In a world that socializes men to see and women to be seen, what does it mean for women painters to traverse the surfaces of sight?
For its new group exhibition I Have My Eye On You, Everyday Gallery invites three painters with a unique perception of the layers of human contours. With exhaling awareness of the gendered perceptions of the body, these painters question what is made visible and invisible through the imagination of the borders of the body.
The surface of the skin, both as border and as ideal, gets questioned through these painters’ imaginations of its transformations. The glistening surfaces of oily skin, fleshy pinks and browns dripping into the purples and blues of lust and pain. These three painters show a shared interest in exploring the boundaries of the physical. Their methods of portraying these borderlands extend from an erotica of deformation, the warping of perspectives and a hint of bright colours breaking otherwise neutral scenes.
The London-based painter Elsa Rouy is not afraid of exploring the disgusting with her bloody or otherwise leaking subjects. Bodies seem inflated, on the edge of pleasure turning into pain or otherwise ready to burst. With genitalia dispersed around the body and fingers entering in unexpected places. Her interest in imperfection works to satirise immoral thoughts, and in this way subvert feelings of shame and guilt and underline the parts of ourselves that we might find uncomfortable. Bodily fluids show up and seep through the images, resonating with current widespread awareness of how our bodies interact when we are in close proximity of each other. In Rouy’s paintings the emphasis is on the play and pleasure of such interactions, where curiosity is shown to be an important human driving force.
Rae Klein, who works from her home in Michigan, U.S.A, plays with classic surrealist interventions in perspective. When hyperreal eyes are placed on abstract human and nonhuman contours, she expands our understanding of themes of curiosity by questioning the boundaries between self and environment and the ways these can be blurred. The rigid binary between inner psychological processes and the impulses from the outside are questioned by relaying the surface of subjects. Experience and thought thus merge so Klein can question profoundly which parts of our perceptions we can control and where this control ends.
The Norwegian painter Trude Viken is an expert of colouring and layering. Her figures are almost buried under the very material they are made out of and yet we see clearly: they are looking at us with their own distinct personalities and experiences. As Viken twists and kneads the layers of her paint she considers what fantasies are at play behind the facades we put up in our everyday lives. Again we are asked to consider what methods are at our disposal to question the binary betweenthe facade and inner life. A bad day may be hiding behind a smile, but as multiple layers break the expectations of a one-dimensional surface Viken’s compositions open space for the tumult of inner life to become more visible.
With leaking holes, stacked layers, and eyes that give access straight into the soul, we find a new and fluid imagination of what hides on and beneath the skin. What brings the paintings together is the ways they combine horror with humor expressed through a shared interest in the tactility of the body as well as in disrupting the expectations of it. These perceptions are mediated through fragmentation and deforming contours: eyes traversing to the chin, the neck, the cleavage.
We are faced with the unwanted or gruesome deformations as well as the fun and joy that can be found in unexpected and new extra-human capacities. Both sides turn out to be necessary in order to create a more layered, more multidimensional picture of the female body. A body that is so often reduced to a flat facade lacking any depth.
I have my eye on you and I invite you to explore this with me.
Text by Emma van Meijeren