Julia Holden discusses her new exhibition - I'm Your Fan

Julia Holden's Odalisque (Audrey Baldwin, after Guerrilla Girls), which is part of Holden's new exhibition I'm Your Fan, ...
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Julia Holden's Odalisque (Audrey Baldwin, after Guerrilla Girls), which is part of Holden's new exhibition I'm Your Fan, which opens at Chambers Gallery next week

Christchurch-based artist Julia Holden has been painting the faces of local artists and dressing them up to look like one of their favourite paintings or portraits.  

Her exhibition, I'm Your Fan, will feature 23 portraits that Holden describes as an "art treasure hunt".   Everyone will be able to recognise at least one of the paintings that her works are based upon, she believes. "If you want to follow the connections between the original painting and my work it will enrich your understanding of the artist's work.   It's a kind of painterly 'whodunnit', if you care to follow the trail.

Julia Holden's Lady with Ermine (Miranda Parkes, after Elizabeth Peyton)
Julia Holden

Julia Holden's Lady with Ermine (Miranda Parkes, after Elizabeth Peyton)

"I am interested in finding a fresh approach to figurative painting and specifically portraiture, which is considered somewhat naff in contemporary art terms – but you cannot dismiss an entire genre of painting based on current trends." 

This is not the first time that Holden has worked closely with Christchurch artists or painted their portrait. An expatriate artist based in Melbourne, she moved to Christchurch in October 2012 and has worked on a series of arts projects focused on community.  In 2014, she painted 150 portraits of 50 people from Christchurch's arts community for her exhibition its like now.  It encompassed paintings of artists, volunteers, administrators and curators, all brought together in a large-scale installation in Art Box on St Asaph Street. 

Holden observes that her background in film-making, an art form centred upon collaboration between numerous individuals and communities has influenced her work habits. "I like making work that involves others. These current portraits have been completed in my studio. I have enjoyed conversations with the artists. I am interested in who they are interested in. There are some artists I met through its like now that I have come to know as friends.

Julia Holden, Self Portrait (Wayne Youle)
Julia Holden

Julia Holden, Self Portrait (Wayne Youle)

'It's also been a nice experience for the participants, getting made up for their chosen portrait.  Happily, down the road from my studio is a $3 clothing warehouse which has suggested some of the clothing or props close to the original image.  My portraits are not a direct copy, in sculptural terms they are about replicating the shape of the original.

"When the artist arrives at my studio I am ready.  I get the pose set up and take a shot on my phone.  Then put gesso on their hat, clothing or whatever it is, barrier cream on any exposed skin and then start painting the cloths, hair and, lastly, the face.   When that's dry, I'll start painting the clothes, hair and, lastly, the face, using house paints.

"Once I get going, I do not muck around.  The actual painting takes about 20 to 30 minutes tops.  I try to get them done quickly and get the shot so they can wash off as soon as possible. The paint is very fresh, wet and dripping in the photograph. The finished work is a photograph as a record of a performance."

Julia Holden's Betty Curnow (Sue Upritchard, after Louise Henderson)
Julia Holden

Julia Holden's Betty Curnow (Sue Upritchard, after Louise Henderson)

I'm Your Fan has also led Holden to discover artists she did not know about and to learn more about the artists that she knows.  "Art is not a solitary activity. It is incorrect to believe that an artist lives in a world that does not let anything else in.  An abstract painter is not just interested in abstract work."   

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Holden cites Miranda Parkes, a painter who has been described as making works that explore "the languages of abstraction".   Parkes selected British artist Elizabeth Peyton's appropriation of Leonardo da Vinci's portrait, Lady with an Ermine, for her portrait. 

Parkes says that she loved Peyton's expressive, yet economical painting style. "Her subjects are usually uber-contemporary, but Julia needed a painting that might feel historically familiar to the gallery visitor.  Reworking Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine was a perfect compromise. I like the lightness and the confidence evident in Peyton's act of addressing the work of such a weighty 'master' as da Vinci.  For the portrait, I enjoyed the process of becoming the lady.  It was enlightening to be on the receiving end of the painter/painting relationship for a change."

I'm Your Fan also includes Adrienne Millwood as Henri Matisse's Madame Matisse (The Green Line), Natalia Saegusa as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's, Self-Portrait, 1913, Alex Porter as Len Lye's Self-Portrait Photogram, Wayne Youle as himself, and photographer Doc Ross as the protesting figure in Tony Fomison's No!

Ross confessed that No!  is a favourite painting. "When the Christchurch Art Gallery put the large scale reproduction of the painting on the wall in High Street, people started asking me if the painting was of me. I now realised that there is a strong likeness."  Fomison's figure was taken from a photograph in a British newspaper of a Devon resident, protesting about the local council's plans to establish a new suburb of 100,000 "townies" in the heart of the countryside.  Ross appreciated the paradox of the figure saying "no".  "By agreeing to have it painted on me I was clearly saying 'yes' while adopting the same pose."

I'm Your Fan also includes an image of performance artist Audrey Baldwin addressing the political agendas of two well-knowns artworks in a single portrait – Jean Dominique Ingres' Odalisque, from 1814, and the New York Gorilla Girls' parody of Ingres' painting from their 1985 protest banner, Do Women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? 

Holden and Baldwin will recreate Edouard Manet's Olympia (1865), for the opening night of I'm Your Fan on March 8.   

"Baldwin is a performance artist," says Holden. "The recreation of Manet's Olympia provides people with the experience of the process of performance / making and realising the artwork.   It further opens up the possibilities of what portraiture might be.   Where does it fit in the art world if a person who has been painted is photographed?   Is it painting, performance, sculpture, photography or all of those things?"

I'm Your Fan, March 8 to 19, Chambers Gallery, 241 Moorhouse Avenue. Julia Holden and Audrey Baldwin will recreate Edouard Manet's Olympia (1865) at a limited, ticketed event on March 8. For details: gallery@chambersart.co.nz

 

 

 - Stuff

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