The title of this exhibition originates from The Latch – a famous painting from the Rococo period. Jean-Honoré Fragonard depicted an erotic scene between a man and a woman with a profound sense of mystery. The man closes the door latch to prevent the woman from leaving, while his right arm aligns with her right leg in a tense straight line. The painter divided the image diagonally in parallel to this line in a seemingly imbalanced manner: separating the foreground where action in progress and the background of large areas of dark red hues. Art historian Daniel Arasse believes that the characters depicted at the lower right are in fact not the subject of the painting, but rather, it is the void at the upper left that fills the image with the “power of silence”, presenting the past and the future simultaneously at the portrayed moment. It implicates the eye-opening schema, which concerns human figures and objects, taboo and representation, as well as the possibility for painting. Desire hopelessly directs towards “nothingness”, while all that we see is merely its insignificant representation.
The earliest depiction of man could be traced back to the birdman in the caves of Lascaux from over eighteen thousand years ago. The birdman almost loses his balance in fright, facing the attack from an ox. The cave painting was interpreted by Georges Bataille as the birth of humanity, and a crucial step in differentiating man from animals. Subjective consciousness has had the highest representation in the creation of art through reforms that humans has brought upon the world and in themselves: portraiture is the most traditional type of painting, the understandings of nature, of the other and of “self” have continuously been incorporated into the worlds depicted by artists. A portrait, does not exist merely as a form of documentation, it also exemplifies the artist’s inquiry of human nature, and the depths of such investigation, plunges to the border that unconsciousness and forbidden desires delimit.
Although it is said by Hans Belting that portraiture has been seen as becoming obsolete in contemporary culture, where faces are exploited and devalued in popular medias, yet there are many artists who continue to reconceptualise portraiture, and to discover other relevant contemporary forms for the medium. Thus, we aim to project the thoughts provoked by The Latch onto the works of practicing artists and to establish some sort of connection between the various styles of painters, in attempt to put these selected works in a common space and to allow for dialogues to happen, thereby emphasising their indescribable value.
These “portraits” are as changeable as the face of the sea-god Proteus, at times they are difficult to grasp or even appear as something entirely different. Within this body of work, there is obsession with form, and there is persistence with concept. The desire and fascination of man are behind each and every one of these works. Spectators are as though they were voyeurs, peeking at the obscured intentions of the portraits through an open door.