Gazes of the Soul
This section is dedicated to how a “look” can convey emotions and communicate, make a declaration or take refuge, enquire, care for and protect. To paraphrase Plato in his Phaedrus, the eyes but more specifically vision, is the clearest of our senses as it “gleams most clearly”. A look can generate an encounter and an intimate conversation between those who portray and those who are portrayed. It can bridge distance and bring about closeness - a relationship between the person portrayed, the person who painted the portrait and the person looking at it.
The eyes of the person portrayed are “scars” handed out by the painter who, by capturing that part of the person depicted, creates an everlasting image, turning something invisible into something that is visible. When a person looking at portrait meets “the look” of the person portrayed, there is hope that it will last forever. The story of such “looks” is the story of all portraits, and a portrait is the expression of the tension in a relationship that exists without words being spoken, but endures, cultivating a relationship between one person and another that is exclusive.
In the 20th century, as photography blazed into existence and the practice of psychological investigation transformed the portrait not only into a genre, but into a representation of the perception that artists have of themselves and of humanity, it became apparent that a camera fell a long way short in being able to suggest the full extent of a feeling, an emotion.
These artists are skilled when it comes to capturing more than a “window” of figurative space; they portray a moment stolen from the lives of the women they portray - seated or standing, mostly motionless, their eyes fixed or lost in space, not always identifiable, and ordinary in terms of clothing and context. They are chosen because the artists believe they recognize you, the viewer, in them; they “play” on what is within and what is without in order to reveal their subjects souls. By paying attention to these women’s “looks”, the artists are able to show that their sensitivity to the nuances of human behaviour is such that by means of a kind of private, deeply empathetic appropriation of the life depicted in the portrait, they are able to create empathy between the viewer and the subject, and their most important objective is to capture a seemingly fleeting moment.
Through the “look” of the characters they portray, painters and sculptors seem to spy on the intimate essence of their subjects; sometimes that look is an expression of an existential loneliness
that often reflects how the artists themselves feel. Aware of their own “honesty” in portraying what they see, they are also clear about the objective difficulties - if not impossibility - of painting
and sculpting without lying. Through the visual and evocative force of a “look”, as well as the effect it has - on those doing the looking and those being looked at and vice versa - many of the works on display become emotional and mental connections that the artist is familiar with, sensitive to and is able to place back in the hands of the observer by capturing and immortalizing particular nuances of female behaviour in a single moment that is then fixed forever in time; simple moments that become eternal.