Renée Duval

Paintings and digital collages 2019 -2021

 In my recent work, I use digital collage to create chimerical “portraits” of human faces fused with plants and flowers.  These images are meant to feel slightly destabilizing or hallucinatory.  I also use symmetry to give the images a feeling of iconography and to evoke idealized and preternatural beauty. Working with this imagery has allowed me to explore my ideas and preoccupations with concepts of beauty, gender, nature and spirituality.
The faces I use in my collages are those of drag performers. Already in state of metamorphosis through make-up, costume and characterization, these faces undergo additional transformations when I merge them with botanical growth. In this process, I am aiming for a kind of alchemy where the faces and plants come together and become something greater the sum of their parts. They are neither fully human nor plant; they may be plant life mutating into human form or the opposite. My interest lies in the point of transition; the shift from one perception to another where meaning is flexible and boundless.
Some of these images work best as digital collages that I print out at an approximately life-size scale. However, there are other images that I am compelled to further transform into large paintings. The shift in scale, the painting process and the language of painting itself can allow for a greater articulation and exploration of points of transition and perpetual shifts. I feel that working in both of these mediums helps me to explore my ideas more fully.
To date, I have been using images of performers taken from the internet. Some of these are images of drag pioneers and icons while others are public images posted by local drag performers whose events I attend regularly and with whom I have a passing acquaintance. When I create my images however, I am unconcerned with maintaining likeness and my interest lies in using a kind of intensified human face to create my own hybrids.
I have long been attracted to representations of broad theatricality in visual art. Although not strictly a genre, it is a perennial thematic that can be seen in works as varied as Tiepolo’s Commedia dell’arte drawings from the 1700’s, Lautrec’s portraits of Cha-U-Kao (1890) and Nauman’s Clown Torture video (1987). For me, there is a heightened sense of humanity at the juncture of these "high" and “low” artforms that is intensely compelling and profound. While I do not necessarily consider my work to be part of that continuum; it has been a substantial influence on my work.

1 min. video of the progress of the painting Fooler

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