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Cindy Sherman and David Salle: History Portraits and Tapestry Paintings - Skarstedt Gallery

I found this exhibition very relevant to my practice due to its reference to history and its element of parody. The exhibition consisted of David Salle's "Tapestry Paintings" (Fig.1) combining figures and images from history with modern images and shapes. The exhibition also consisted of Cindy Sherman’s "History Portraits" (Fig.2) referencing noble historical paintings from the renaissance, baroque, rococo and neo-classical periods.

In these images Sherman exaggerated the stereotype and portrayal of women within art history through the use of props and costumes. She used prosthetics to draw attention to the clichés within the genre which she is recreating. This subtle manipulation of cliches is something I wish to do in my work, although Sherman's work has a feminist agenda, my work is more revolved around nationalism and culture.

This relevance to culture and feminism links to the theory seminars I have been attending this term, we have been looking at Judith Butler and the link between gender, culture and performance. Butler argues that from an early age our gender is performed and through social constructs we un-knowingly perform what our beliefs are surrounding our gender. This performance of gender could perhaps be applied to the performance of characteristics associated with different nationalities. Like Sherman, performing an exaggerated version of a women, I am trying to exaggerate images associated with Englishness. I would consider exploring photography and film in the future which may incorporate some performative elements although I feel this is a little down the line.

I liked the replication of painting through the use of photography, I found her response acting as an evolution of the original genre in terms of the way imagery is recorded and the developments in technology and image making. I found the content of the work represented society's progress, Sherman had a social motivation campaigning for the equality of women. This is showing the development in the role of art and its relationship to social political change, this feminist motivation is extremely contrasting to the purpose of the original genre which was to reinforce the status and wealth of the powerful noble sitters.

I was interested in the source imagery David Salle used and the narrative the tapestries tell as when I select paintings from art history to bring up to date in my own work I am often attracted to the narrative. Up to this point I had not even considered looking at tapestries as a source as I was interested in the traditions of English painting and looking at the old English masters, however tapestries offer a clear narrative situated in history and often involve international conflict and patriotism. In the future I will consider looking towards old tapestries as a source for narrative and imagery for me to translate into the 21st century.



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