Carlye Packer is pleased to present Red Light at Night, Shepherd’s Delight, a solo exhibition of works by Ireland Wisdom made during her residency at the Bowlish House in Somerset, UK.
In this suite of paintings, the Los Angeles based artist, who received classical training at the Florence Academy of art in figure painting, attempts to revive the gentle magic of springtime in the English countryside with a series of portraits that attest to the body’s ability to blossom forth as part of a collaborative whole.
Inspired by the contributions of European masters, among them Velazquez, Boticelli and Quentin Matsys, Wisdom depicts her subjects’ likenesses cast triumphantly against endless outstretches of darknesses. Wisdom encases her figures in a web of symbolic ornamentations – a bundle of carrots, the skull of a deer, a tuft of lilacs, and an oyster shell – these accessorial details immortalize Wisdom’s subjects as something more than their form, perhaps their energy.
Each ornamentation is selected from the actual possessions of the represented person. Even in paintings as fantastically inflected and stylistically baroque as these, Wisdom’s insistence on illusionistic representation as a central, almost morally significant component of art is apparent. Her close, yet imaginative attention to detail, to light, seem in particular to call out to the viewer.
All but two of the portraits are dedicated to a single figure. In the first, a man sits folded on his knees, carving a spoon, while a woman, shirtless, with jeans low on her thighs, is seen hammering a nail into the black background against which they appear. In the second, a recumbent subject meets the artist’s gaze, who attends the picture only as a reflection, her face caught in a reflection propped up casually against the wall.
While of course these perspectival stunts reference the classical construction of images, on an emotional level they are also evidence of the artist’s motivations, her assumptions. Mechanistically their function in the image is to allow or invite multiple figures, the artist herself included, to participate in the painting, to imagine themselves as part of the universe it inhabits, or put differently to locate themselves in spatial and spiritual contiguity to the subject and their world.
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The Ugly Dutchess in the National Gallery, 2023
Oil on jute
74 4/5 x 51 1/5 inches (190 x 130 cm)