News

Image: A New Nude: Aleah Chapin's Aunties
News

A New Nude: Aleah Chapin's Aunties

"While paintings like "Auntie" and "Momo" are more or less straight-forward, richly detailed nudes, they hardly come across as stiff or academic. The cool, overall lighting and minimal white backgrounds, accented with abstract, expressive marks, place the aunties squarely in a modern perspective. The context saves the nudity from coming across as an unintentional consequence of painting in a traditional paradigm, i.e., it keeps the painstakingly rendered bodies fresh. Yet while the paintings resist an antiquated tone, the imagery brings to mind an ancient earth-mother archetype, within whom authority and flesh are intrinsically bound. Even more so in group portraits like "Step" and "Twoness," the women take on an unearthly, goddess-like status, and the nudity begins to feel like simply their most natural state of being. The women press and lean against each other, creating a communal embrace and the impression of mutual acceptance. Their un-self-conscious, ungraceful gestures express total ease, reinforcing a sense of every day normalcy within these worlds.

Collectively, the paintings suggest a non-literal, transcendental place that can be reached through family, or simply community. Teetering on the edge of geometric, abstract shapes, the bare-bones landscape featured in several paintings conjures an idea of place more than it describes a physical location. By abstracting the landscape, Chapin encourages a non-literal interpretation of the "place" where the aunties are unified and grounded.

Mostly, the paintings represent a personal project. The aunties are a group of women who've been part of Chapin's life since birth, and, in the artist's own words, the series "examines [her] personal history through the people who have shaped it." But there is also a social commentary embedded in the work. As Daniel Maidman brought up in his Huff Post review this January:

"... Chapin won the BP Portrait Award last year, an important British award...and you should have seen the vitriol in the comment threads of online articles about the painting, the whining and bitching about "why do I have to look at this woman?" So -- yes, it's an issue."

Aleah Chapin must have anticipated these reactions to the series. In fact, I can't help but read this entire body of work as, in part, a tremendous response to our culture's unbalanced valuation of women. The Aunties series celebrates the wisdom and authority that comes with age and experience and denies our cultural impulse to "cover up" the older, venerable body. Moreover, throughout the Aunties series, a woman's nakedness indicates self-possession and truth, a rare and powerful sight in contemporary painting. Yet the beauty of Chapin's work is that it remains uncluttered with agenda. The cultural reflection is more like the back side of the coin, or an afterthought yoked to a poignant interpretation of family."

Julia Clift

huffingtonpost.com

 

Newsletter signup

Get our newsletter including exhibitions, news and events
We will process the personal data you have supplied in accordance with our privacy policy. You can unsubscribe or change your preferences at any time by clicking the link in any emails.
London

21 Cork Street
London W1S 3LZ

Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 6pm

Please enquire about private viewings or visits outside of our regular hours. 
 

To ensure the continued safety of our staff and guests when inside our gallery spaces, thank you for wearing a face covering for the duration of your visit and respecting social distancing. 

We have a maximum limit to the number of people allowed within our gallery at any one time and therefore we may need to ask you to wait outside or to return at another time. 

 

London

82 Kingsland Road
London E2 8DP

Wednesday - Saturday 11am - 6pm

Please enquire about private viewings or visits outside of our regular hours. 

 

To ensure the continued safety of our staff and guests when inside our gallery spaces, thank you for wearing a face covering for the duration of your visit and respecting social distancing. 

We have a maximum limit to the number of people allowed within our gallery at any one time and therefore we may need to ask you to wait outside or to return at another time. 

 

 
New York

Private viewings by appointment

 

Hong Kong

49 Tung Street
Sheung Wan

Tuesday - Saturday 12 - 6pm

Close

Your saved list

Create a list of works then send us an enquiry.
No items found