Each portrait, titled after the subject’s name, uses a digitally rendered photograph of their face in order to embroider it with varying fabrications. One piece breaks the lower limits of the frame with a draping pinstriped scrap pinned to the image plane by the subject’s face itself; another face is almost entirely hidden behind a pair of small brown jean shorts that jut out from the canvas. This new body of work arose in tandem with Fowler’s most recent clothing production experiments.
After producing works in sculpture and photography, Fowler became attracted by the glitchy, unexpected potential of industrial embroidery machines. One is still tempted to call these canvases paintings despite their sculptural depth, simply because the tonal palette throughout the gallery, dominated by cool teals, blues and lavenders and earthy ochres, oranges and reds, is so tightly cohesive. The fact that all of the canvases size were so similar, the exhibition gives the impression they may even be mass produced since the portraits when together, appear uniform.
Lest the viewer—or, perhaps wearer, of his pieces be fooled, the fact that Brendan Fowler has upgraded to an industrial embroidery machine does not mean that virtuosity or that precision and the human hand are absent.Rather, it looks like these portraits are an exercise in exhausting the machine’s visual capacity.
“New Portraits” at Richard Telles Fine Art runs from January 7 – February 11, 2017.
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