V1 Gallery is pleased to present Misanthrope a solo exhibition by Richard Colman. The title of the exhibition is a reference to Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s infamous painting The Misanthrope from 1568. Bruegel’s painting depicts a black-robed, older bearded man, seemingly starring into the void, his hands clasped before him. A smaller young man has sneaked up behind the roped man using his knife to cut the strings to the man’s money pouch. The elderly man is apparently so lost in his own thoughts that he does not notice the theft or a group of thorns on the ground directly in his path. An inscription in Flemish at the bottom of the painting reads: Om dat de werelt is soe ongetru / Daer om gha ic in den ru (“Because the world is perfidious / I am going into mourning”).
The suggested moral of the painting being that it is impossible to exclude the world and hide in your own thoughts. We have to face the difficulties and problems before us and not abandon awareness and responsibility. This is the context for Colman’s new body of work – 13 paintings on canvas in various sizes ranging from 76 x 76 cm – 152 x 213 cm. The paintings depict women in a state of reflection and contemplation.
Most of the works are executed in a muted palette, black hues, dark blue and brown. Colman’s signature figurative style is reduced to an almost minimal abstract language in the new works. This gives the work a meditative yoga like presence. The women depicted are reflecting on, not retracting from, the present state of the world. As an observer you find yourself reflecting on the women and their maze like geometric postures. The paintings offer no easy solutions or redemption. They are vessels for entangled sentiments of mourning, compassion, apathy, awareness, guilt and resolve. You are both lost and found in the work.
Richard Colman started working on the exhibition in August 2016 and literally felt America change around him as he was creating the new work. The emotional roller coaster a majority of Americans (and the rest of the world) experienced in the past 7 months is cast in the work. There are only female protagonists in the new body of work. In the later part of the series Colman gradually re-introduces a brighter and more colourful palette; light blue, red, pink and orange appear. In Red Figure, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, the last work completed, a naked female figure in strong red hues, casually seated with a strong poise, holds out her arm with a decapitated male head in the palm of her hand. Her gaze fixed on his. The suggested moral of the work is that with every action comes a reaction. That misanthropy is a natural feeling in times that feel unnatural. That perhaps the future is female.
Richard Colman's work is known for blending figurative imagery and bold geometry. Typically using complex compositions, Colman explores themes of human sexuality, societal hierarchies, life and death. His work ranges from small to large-scale paintings, murals and installations. Colman, born 1976, Maryland, USA, currently lives and works in San Francisco. He has exhibited extensively in Europe and America. Misanthrope is Colmanʼs fourth solo exhibition with V1 Gallery.