A Social Portrait

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2015

  • Exhibited

    New York, Half Gallery, Good Morning, Midnight: Genieve Figgis, 15 September - 25 October 2014

  • Literature

    Alison Gingeras, Genieve Figgis, New York, 2017, pp. 98-99 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    I love looking at ideas of the past in Old Masters. They were made to tell you a story. Some of the portraits have the authority and theatricality... I enjoy looking at people from the past and how they portrayed themselves.” Geneive Figgis

    Painted in 2015, A Social Portrait is nastily entertaining, distinctly representative of the artist’s interest in pursuing and exploring history as a constant starting point for her work. With an interest in Irish-English subjects of the fifteenth century, Genieve Figgis precisely turns to this in A Social Portrait, painting a traditional aristocratic family portrait in an indoor domestic setting, reminiscent of the drawing room in a Georgian country house. Throughout the canon of art history, from the early Renaissance to eighteenth century portraiture, male artists have championed the notion of the home as a way of reflecting lineage, as well as to embody the hierarchical system of virtues of how women should behave as in Sir Joshua Reynold’s 4th Duke of Marlborough and Family created in the seventeenth century. Contrary to this and as suggested in the title, A Social Portrait, while taking to history as a source of inspiration, Figgis puts her own contemporary spin on the classical subject, knocking down the ideals of the ‘stiff’ domestic setting through the pose, appearance and attire of her figures. Blatantly refusing to portray three generations of one family or to put emphasis on a maternal pair enthroned in a damask chair, Figgis instead renders all of her historic characters with equal importance, confronting the viewer directly with a haunting yet humorous gaze. From the women on the far left to the dog in the center and the men on the right, each character is painted with skull-like and animalistic features, bathed in rich colours that bubble, ooze and marbleize into a creamy pool, calling to mind spectral creatures and leering ghouls. Figgis dresses her characters in distinctly Georgian attire yet deliberately picks the dresses and hairstyles that were considered to be progressive and contemporary of the time – painting the women in 18th century-style chemise gowns, deemed to be immodest and informal, but considered as in fashion by forward-thinking aristocrats; and the men, bewigged and dressed in dark, well-cut and fitted overcoats. A Social Portrait reflects a fascinating moment, in which her figures are masked under the different cosmetics of time.

    In true contemporary fashion, Figgis’ career began on Twitter in which her display of artworks on the platform caught the attention of celebrated American artist Richard Prince, introducing her into the New York art scene. After starting a family, Figgis only began studying Fine Arts at the Gorey School of Art in Wexford at the age of 30, mesmerised by the experimental nature of painting and the medium’s long attachment to history and representation to the figure. “Painting is about pleasure. If it weren’t pleasurable, I wouldn’t do it. For a long time I’ve been pouring paint – the medium’s unpredictability is the addiction for me…” explains Figgis (the artist quoted in Olivia Parkes, “The Irish Artist Attacking the Female Figure with Paint”, Vice, 23 October 2015, online). To Figgis, the painting is her stage and the story she paints happens by chance, allowing her to invent and direct as she goes along, with no idea of how it will end. Influenced by a wide array of female artists such as Jenny Saville, Marlene Dumas, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Figgis strikes a balance between figuration and abstraction, bringing home her distinct style of a combination of apparent pictorial banality with an underlying otherworldly quality, at once funny and subversive.

  • Catalogue Essay


    作於2015年,《社交肖像》有著鬧劇式的娛樂性,明顯地代表了藝術家對追溯和探索歷史的興趣,並不斷將其作為自己創作的出發點。對15世紀的愛爾蘭和英國之主題極有興趣,珍尼維·菲吉斯正是將《社交肖像》聚焦在此,繪製了一個傳統的貴族家庭在一個室內場景中的肖像,讓人聯想到喬治亞風格的鄉間別墅中的客廳。從文藝復興早期到18世紀的肖像畫,在整個藝術史上,男性藝術家一直倡導通過「家」這一概念來反映世襲,和象徵等級制度下女性應以何種舉止來體現美德,正如約書亞·雷諾茲爵士創作於17世紀的 《馬爾堡公爵四世家族》中所見。與此相反,正如《社交肖像》的標題所示,僅管靈感來自歷史,菲吉斯對這一古典主題進行了自己的當代改編,通過人物的姿勢、外貌以及服裝打破了「僵硬」的理想化家庭場景。菲吉斯公然拒絕去描繪一個家庭的三代人,或把焦點放置在端坐於錦緞椅子上的一對母系人物身上,而是賦予了她創作中所有的歷史人物同等重要的地位,讓他們用虎視眈眈而又幽默的目光直接注視著觀者。從最左邊的女人到中間的一隻狗,再到右邊的男人,每個人物都畫成有著骷髏般的獸性特徵,包圍著他們的豐富的色彩泡泡、滲出並溶成一個凝脂狀的水池,讓人聯想起幽靈和陰森的死屍。菲吉斯用喬治亞風格裝扮她的人物,但又特意挑選了在當時被認為是前衛和當代的禮服和髮型——畫中的女人穿著18世紀風格的查米斯連方裙,具輕佻和非正式感,但被當時思想進步的貴族認為是時尚的;而男人們,戴著假髮,穿著深色、剪裁得體、合身的長大衣。《社交肖像》影射著一個令人著迷的瞬間,在那一瞬間裏她的人物都深藏於另一時代的妝容之下。

    具有真正的當代特色,菲吉斯的職業生涯始於推特,她在該平台上展示的作品引起了著名美國藝術家理查德·普林斯的注意,並將她介紹到紐約藝術圈。到30歲建立家庭之後,菲吉斯仍對繪畫的實驗性質,該媒介長久以來與歷史的相關性,以及對人物的再現念念不忘,這時她才開始進入韋克斯福德的格雷藝術學院學習藝術。「繪畫是關於快樂。如果不愉快,我是不會畫的。長期以來,我一直在澆注著顏料——這一媒介的不可預測性讓我上癮...」菲吉斯解釋說(藝術家之言,Olivia Parkes,《愛爾蘭藝術家用顏料攻擊女性形象》,《Vice》,2015年10月23日,截自網路)。對費吉斯來說,繪畫是她的舞台,她畫中故事的發生具有偶然性,允許她在推進的過程中去創造和導演,卻不知道其結局將會如何。受到珍妮·薩維爾、瑪琳·杜馬斯和勒内特·亞多姆-博克耶等眾多女性藝術家的影響,菲吉斯在具像與抽象之間取得平衡,清晰地帶著結合了明顯繪畫中的平常與其潛在的超凡脫俗之特質,有趣的同時又具顛覆性。

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A Social Portrait

signed and dated 'genieve figgis 2014' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
58.4 x 99.1 cm. (23 x 39 in.)
Painted in 2014.

HK$120,000 - 180,000 

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Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019