For her COMMA commission at Bloomberg SPACE, British painter Vicky Wright presents a series of new paintings, which draw upon her ongoing concerns with the paradoxical nature of portraiture, politics and patronage.
The paintings, which continue on from her original Extraction series, hint at a hidden history by painting on the reverse of the frame. The works will traverse the rear gallery appearing as windows into the machine or portraits of desire, their gaze looking out covetously. At the epicentre of the gallery will stand a large 'totem' enclosing an illuminated piece of coal, a symbolic source of energy - the prize.
The paintings, simply entitled The Guardians appear as an exploration of portraiture and what might be revealed on the back of such portraits. The history of genre painting generally, especially portraiture, tends to immortalise the captains of industry who have commissioned it. As Wright explains, ‘The darker side to this is the extraction of wealth at the price of human misery, whether its coal mining in the North or the extraction of minerals in Africa - they all reveal an exploitative transaction. In a sense, the people who aren’t immortalised are the ones who are the exploited’.
Wright’s contemporary inverted portraits look at these darker histories and give a face to the faceless structure of society. The Guardians can be seen as discursive worlds of a personal history, becoming metaphysical marks and residues from a thought process that guides her work. Fascinated by the relentless abuse of humanity and the unwavering spirit of man’s refusal to succumb to such actions, Wright presents a group of portraits and abject bodies preoccupied with the human condition, where a number of absurd characters emerge reveling in sorrow and resilience. Within the context of the exhibition the single piece of coal is presented as a symbol of rebellion, a talismanic counteraction to the structures and systems of the contemporary world.