FIRLE, NEAR LEWES.- Charleston
reopened in Spring 2021 with a presentation of new work by South African artist Lisa Brice. The exhibition forms part of a season at Charleston addressing the historic relationship between artist and model and is being shown alongside the first major retrospective of the work of Nina Hamnett.
For her solo exhibition at Charleston, Brice presents a new series of works on paper that continues her ongoing interest in challenging traditional depictions of the female nude. Brices paintings and works on paper contest the often-misogynistic nature of art historical figuration typically painted by white men for white men by taking ownership over how women are portrayed.
Acknowledging the parameters of art history, Brices works echo iconic compositions by artists such as Vallotton, Degas, Manet and Picasso but lend their protagonists agency and self-possession. Her interiors draw on the artists personal experience from living and working between South Africa, London and Trinidad over the past 20 years.
Rejecting the gaze of the viewer, formal devices such as mirrors, smoke and metal grilles veil her subjects. Examining notions of liminality, Brice's works often play with doorways to emphasise the immediacy of our encounters with her muses as we address them face-to-face. Brice is interested in threshold spaces where transitional states of being come into play; interior and exterior, public and private, artist and model. Her use of cobalt and Prussian blue in these works obscures the naturalistic skin tones of the body to further discourage an easy read' of the female form.
Discussing the women depicted in her new works, Brice explains that there is no hierarchy between artist and model, as is generally implied in historical studio scenes of male painters and their female models; they are all on their own time, whether active or paused, in contemplation or in conversation with one another. Nude and clothed figures are interchangeable, and the active and the passive are similarly equal in status within the scene. They are all artists at work in one way or another.
Accompanying Brices exhibition is a new text by critic, curator and researcher Rianna Jade Parker. Parker received her MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Previously a Tate Collectives Producer, she is a Contributing Editor of frieze and a founding member of interdisciplinary art collective Thick/er Black Lines.
Discussing the new series of works, Parker said: With her cobalt and Prussian blue dipped brush, Brice contours wide hips and elongated arms showing the edges of an everyday femme fatale concerned only with the moment, her medium, but mostly herself.
Dr Darren Clarke, Charlestons Head of Collections, Research and Exhibitions said: Lisa Brice embodies the Bloomsbury spirit of resistance and change in her reclaiming of the female figure from traditional closed male power structures. Her reauthoring of the art historical past brings new life and light into her work, which is open and accessible for all audiences. We are delighted that Lisa's work will be on display, as part of a wonderful celebration of Charleston's survival and rebirth.