• One by One: Genieve Figgis

    July 6 – 18, 2021

  • Almine Rech is pleased to present One by One: Genieve Figgis, featuring the never-seen before painting Equal Rights from 2021.

    One by One is a series of exclusive online viewing rooms dedicated to extraordinary individual artworks. Established to further refine the experience of online exhibitions, One by One features works by artists from the gallery's program on a regular basis.

    In the unusual and satirical style that has made her reputation, Genieve Figgis continues her exploration of the history of painting with Equal Rights, showing a particular attachment to 18th-century genre painting.


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  • Genre painting as an anchor

    In the unusual and satirical style that has made her reputation, Genieve Figgis continues her exploration of the history of painting with Equal Rights, showing a particular attachment to 18th-century genre painting. Following Bruegel and then Vermeer, this artistic genre flourished in British and French painting of the Enlightenment, especially with the fêtes galantes of Watteau, the interior scenes of Chardin and Greuze, and the erotic scenes of Fragonard. Often in small dimensions, genre painting rejected the historical, religious, or allegorical themes fully humanizing the social space and took hold of familiar everyday scenes that could even seem trivial, with just a few close figures entering the composition.

     

  • Humanist satire

    Genieve Figgis' "cover versions" - transformed versions of Old Master paintings -include Les Hasards heureux de l'escarpolette by Fragonard and Mr and Mrs Andrews by Gainsborough, along with Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe by Manet, Las Meninas by Velázquez, and Charles IV of Spain and his Family by Goya. An exceptional storyteller, perfectly wielding the art of narrative and theatricality, the Irish artist (she was born in Dublin in 1972) has masterfully painted a private piano recital, a dinner in a splendid setting, and a canoe ride on a lake by a castle. Aristocrats and high society of yesteryear are depicted satirically, distorted by expressions varying between the macabre and the comically joyful, subversion and empathy, to the point of obscuring any social origin.

     

    In period costume, the figures in Equal Rights portray the scene of a masked ball informed by the tradition of the group portrait. Genieve Figgis gives them sweet or exaggerated smiles and strained and severe expressions, creating spectral creatures that are both decadent and endearing, horrifying and likeable, in a spirit of caricature that nevertheless recalls Ensor's carnivals or Goya's Caprices. But the words "Equal Rights," written on a sign held by one of the protagonists, transform the scene into the ideal of a multicultural society. "The figures I create live in an equal society, free of judgement and oppression. The role of the artist is to attempt to show an alternative perspective on life, to create somewhere more beautiful and unique," the artist says.

     

  • An unusual technique

    The colorful distortions on top of the hairstyles of two figures in this new painting by Genieve Figgis are a perfect example of her unique technical and formal approach. In her studio, the artist uses a great deal of material and colors, working on the ground to avoid drips. Employing an original and complex technique, she gives these faces deformed features, a grotesque disfigurement that is exuberant, joyful, and psychedelic, inviting abstraction into her figurative painting. The colors seem to intermingle in their dilution, forming a colorful, whirling movement. Genieve Figgis is especially fond of this unpredictability, these accidents in the creative process that are specific to painting and guide her artistic production.

     

  • A reflection of the time

    Beyond the period costumes and the aristocracy of the past, Genieve Figgis's art, both joyous and subversive, reflects a period dominated by entertainment and spectacle. The subjects of these narratives with rococo accents - open-air shindigs, masked balls, bucolic outings - are not the fruit of chance or caprice. With disinhibiting boldness, they speak to the current and unceasing quest for pleasure and freedom. Equal Rights, like all of Genieve Figgis' work, also highlights, with self-aware humor, how contemporary vanity created by social networks finds an echo in the flattery of the ego accompanying a portrait or genre scene by the Old Masters. But in Figgis' work, the social satire is humanist and is always accompanied by an ideal of community and collective emancipation. Digging into the history of painting is one of the great strengths of her work, with its luxuriant imagination. "The portraits then become timeless and unbound by society's expectations," says the artist, who, with exceptional talent, has turned toward the past to better reveal her own time.

    Charles Barachon - Writer and art critic

     
     

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  • Genieve Figgis in her studio Photo Doreen Kilfeather

     

    More on Genieve Figgis


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