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Mat Humphrey - Portraits
(with Wen Wu)
September 11 - October 1, 2008

Arising from the thought of painting his mother as a “pseudo-religious icon… her face weathered but surrounded by kitsch symbolism, fake gold leaf and gaudiness”, Humphrey's work for this show combines, and perhaps confuses, colourful kitsch realism with an unsettling intimacy.

The paintings draw from a range of styles that, through the familiarity of their ‘low-brow' references, may lull the viewer into a false sense of comfort. However, there is a subtle undercurrent of disquiet that travels through these works. The subjects are perhaps uneasy within their bright and decorative surroundings. Halos and metallic rays engulf the sitters but seem to be almost an embarrassment to them. Some facial expressions appear to be teetering on the edge of either anger of amusement, or are displaying a reluctance to be idolised.  Others sit slightly uncomfortably within their kitsch presentation. The works bring into question notions of the use of portrayal within contemporary society. Unlike historical portraiture, these works are not attempts to elevate the status of the sitter.

“I became interested in the notion of self doubt within a portrait. I noticed the painting of Pope Innocent X by Velazquez holds a peculiar expression of self questioning.  I wanted my subjects to be full of doubts… and to put that at odds with the presentation of the subject. I want both paintings and their subjects to feel like they have come from a time of uncertainty”.



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