Opening today, Lisa Brice’s solo show at Stephen Friedman Gallery continues her interrogation of the male gaze. Challenging and reinterpreting traditional depictions of the female nude from the perspective of a female artist, Brice contests the misogynistic nature of historical figuration typically painted by white men for white men and takes ownership over how women are portrayed. Working within the parameters of art history, Brice echoes iconic compositions by artists such as Degas, Manet and Picasso, but instead lends her muses agency and self-possession. The interiors draw on Brice’s personal experience from living and working between South Africa, London and Trinidad over the past 20 years.
Repudiating the gaze of the viewer, formal devices such as mirrors, smoke and metal grilles veil her subjects. In a significant development by the artist, Brice has also produced a number of large-scale, hand-painted, folded screens that physically break up the exhibition space to obscure key sightlines.
Ironically, such changing screens were traditionally used in artists’ studios to give nude models privacy whilst undressing. These freestanding paintings depict groups of women socialising with one another in an ambiguous studio setting and liberated from their former isolation as objectified muses. Brice’s use of vermillion and cobalt blue in many of the works obscures the naturalistic skin tones of the body to further discourage an easy ‘read’ of the female form.
Images of female empowerment populate Brice’s new paintings and works on paper. ‘Untitled’ depicts a naked woman in stockings standing before a mirror, armed with a dripping paintbrush and with a cigarette dangling from her lips. Defiant rather than vulnerable, she stares at her reflection and in turn directly into the eyes of the viewer. Here roles are reversed as the model now assumes the unconventional position of the artist. Unfinished brushstrokes and a discarded palette at her feet suggest that she is at liberty to depict herself as she wants. Other paintings provide direct access into the studio, a private space for creativity now stripped of its masculine associations. Instead of being transformed into allegorical figures, the models in Brice’s paintings are now subjected to the ‘female gaze’ as she explores the potency of self-representation.
Examining notions of liminality, Brice’s paintings play with the dimensions and format of doorways and emphasise the immediacy of our encounter with her muses as we address them face-to-face. One such model is obscured behind a striking red door. Whether she is refusing or granting entry remains unclear yet her unflinching gaze and accusatory stance assert her power. Brice is interested in such threshold spaces where transitional states of being come into play; interior and exterior, public and private, artist and model.
Tuesday to Friday, 10am–6pm
and Saturday, 11am–5pm