For every photograph that is displayed, Boo Ritson has coated her subjects in emulsion paint. Literally painting onto their clothes and skin, she serves up a humorous comparison to past histories of painted portraiture.
The photographs are taken while the paint is still wet. For the artist, this makes the process an intense one, dictated by time, paint is layered on generously. Her subjects do not have a dunked or gunged effect; they are painted gesturally, quickly but accurately in a cartoonish manner. This process has led Boo’s images to be defined as ‘sitting somewhere between painting, sculpture, performance and photography’.
To surpass basics of trompe l’oeil, sitters are transformed into fictional characters and become part of a made up narrative; their masquerade borrowed from the colourful vision of exported American imagery: 1950s / 60s style dinners, fast food and life on the American highway.
Back- Roads Journeys begins in ‘the Diner’ at Alan Cristea Gallery where you are introduced to characters- ‘the waitress’, unhappy in her job and waiting the table of ‘the trucker’. The second chapter, at Poppy Sebire Gallery, depicts a love story- the waitress leavening her diner job and hitchhiking off with the trucker- meeting other filmic stereotypes along the way. The subject matter is a feast of pure pop imagery: hamburgers, milkshakes, Hawaiian shirts and cheerleaders.
Much is predominately painted in white emulsion. This gives a sculptural suggestion. The hamburger, synonymous with Claes Oldenburg, is a treat of colour which oozes wetness and comic style vibrancy. There is an overall emphasis on pastiche and retro iconography.
It is more unashamedly amusing than Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills (1977-80), and in this exhibition, Ritson’s staged theatricality portrays 'character type' less successfully. It is more an overall film-fiction verses reality homage, which truly entertains ideas about cliché. It is a familiar ‘cool’ snapshot, a quick fix of visual imagery, but if you look at them for long enough, there’s no denying that the plastically painted veneer of a ‘different face’, like a pop-packaged human, is either slightly superficially creepy or humorously engaging. If some are sceptical, it’s probably because they are uncomfortable and secretly surprised that something so simple and so obvious, in all its blatant imagery, has never actually, notably been done before.
Having recently collaborated with the youthful,
Some of those disguised under Ritson’s paint are curators or galleriests. Today, as in ages past, being painted by an artist denotes status. I can imagine, and this is totally unfounded, that being ‘painted’ by Boo Ritson may follow the same history.
-- Jane Mae Howard
All Images Courtesy the Artist and Poppy Sebire Contemporary Art
Images from Top to Bottom: (By The Roadside, Triptych, 2009, Edition 3, 2 APs, 152.4 x 340.46 cm unframed, Archival digital prints on Somerset paper; The Pin-Up, 2009, Edition 3, 2 APs, 139.7 x 182.85 cm unframed, Archival digital print on Somerset paper)
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