WHAT DO YOU SEE, YOU PEOPLE, GAZING AT ME
Sadie Coles Gallery, London
16 November 2021 - 29 January 2022
Each of the eight artists in this exhibition engage both two and three dimensional media to manifest the body and express its capacity for action; in turn conjuring an interrelational dialogue with the viewer’s own sense of self. Figuration has often been used as a visual record of history, a depiction of a particular subject in a particular time and place. For the artists in this exhibition, figuration extends beyond documentation, it is a potent tool of expression, a testimony of a new perspective. Works confronting inequalities of power via race or gender are presented alongside those which redirect our assumptions about histories and the hierarchies they established. These works are disrupting expectations about which bodies warrant representation, and why.
One of the strongest arguments for figuration’s enduring appeal is its capacity to use a universally relatable form: the human body, to evoke an emotional response in the viewer. We recognise pain and suffering with the same immediacy as joy and contentment. Even when a figure is foreign in shape or style, when it bears no formal resemblance to the viewer, when there is no shared history or understanding, the common language of the body can elicit sympathy or solace, it can attract or repel. Figuration is powerful and persistent, and the re-engagement in its potential for imagining and documenting change is a true expression of the potency of our new century.