Renée Duval

Paintings and digital collages 2019 -2022

 My work has long been concerned with perceptions of the natural world. In Western culture we tend to see it as somehow outside of ourselves, and we struggle with the idea that we are intrinsically interconnected—that we are it and it is us.

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 vice versa. 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. 

Amid the many collage images I produce, there are some that I feel compelled to develop further by transforming them into large format paintings. The shift in scale, the painting process and the language of painting itself allow me to further articulate and explore points of transition and perpetual shifts in awareness. I feel that working in both of these mediums helps me to explore my ideas more fully.

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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