Julie Curtiss focuses on the relationship between nature and culture in her figurative painting, sculpture and gouache on paper, exposing and reworking female archetypes through a surrealist sense of the uncanny. ‘In my images, I enjoy the complementarity of humour and darkness, the uncanny and the mundane, grotesque shapes and vivid colours’, she has commented.
Born and raised in Paris, Curtiss studied at l’Ėcole des Beaux-Arts before moving first to Japan and then to New York, where she now lives and works. Employing a highly stylised visual language, she draws on a history of figurative painting including 18th- and 19th-century French painting, as well as the Chicago Imagists and the ‘pop’ imagery of comic books, manga and illustration. Her subject matter centres on the female body, through deconstructed and fragmented details like heads or legs, or through the symbols of stereotyped ‘femininity’ such as long nails, flowing hair or high heels. In a similar manner to Post-Impressionist painters, Curtiss mines her subjects from contemporary, everyday life, representing its curious, small details in cropped and ambiguous compositions that are erotically charged, and cinematic and dreamlike in feel, interweaving the general and specific in ways that are at once fantastical, precise and unsettling. Through the use of unexpected juxtapositions, of subject with object, of the seen and the implied, and an exaggerated portrayal of cartoon-like forms, her paintings are infused with a direct and deadpan humour, revealing the uncanny within the banal and the grotesque and surreal undertones of human characteristics and behaviour.