Chati Coronel’s new paintings encourage us to question, test, and explore the lines that define and separate our bodies, psyches, and environments. They speak of touch and contact, the bonds that form when something meets the skin.
The figures in SkinSkin stand out, stark and naked against plain bright backgrounds that drip onto their bodies. But Coronel turns the body into a second canvas, reminding us that our physical experiences are written on skin. These “skin-memories” linger, whether we heed them or not. Coronel uses the naked figure to surface these rich interior landscapes and half-remembered stories: “conquistadors making out with puppets, faceless queens, women giving birth to rainbows.” Each piece conflates our psychic and embodied lives.
In paintings like Vanilla and Blush, the boundaries of the body are obscured by patchwork and layering; one can see where a form has been rubbed out, painted over. A history of transformation is both covered up and bared. With SkinSkin, Coronel pulls off an impressive double act, a simultaneous veiling and opening up, a peeling back – what she fittingly calls skinning – to reveal bits and pieces of the intricate histories that wait underneath: stray clouds, a cryptic phrase, masks and horns and not a single face. The painting is both cross-section and cipher: skins piled over skins. Coronel hasn’t carved out complex inner spaces; she has uncovered them, and is inviting us to explore and dig deep. “Each figure,” she explains, “is a pool to dive into.” As if in response, the women in the paintings turn into themselves, their limbs bent and bowed and always returning to the body.