Hyacinths and Thistles
Lauchie Reid Solo Exhibition
Saturday Sept 6, 2014
Runs Sept 6 to Oct 4, 2014
As authentic but unlikely heroes, the subjects of this series stand as a warning against both nostalgia and hierarchy. Whether through the haunting face of a medical patient peering out from behind the dress of a much more fortunate girl, the obscured identities and silent stares of generals and commanders, or in the shining medal of honour that hangs from the neck of an aging drummer boy, these characters demand to be taken seriously and never pitied.
Often using found historical photographs as a point of departure, Reid blends his narrative with imagined and real truths, recreating images with committed exactitude, while taking liberties to add, eliminate or conceal certain details. The resulting paintings are powerful and perplexing, ripe with both historical authority and contemporary ambiguity. Although the work can be directly and immediately appreciated for its skillful execution, its true strength rests in the seamless merging of fact with fiction. By coupling tradition with an interwoven web of well-kept secrets, Reid asks his viewers to question notions of historicity, representation, truth claims and presentism.
The exhibition’s title work, Hyacinths & Thistles, presents the powerfully haunting scene of a Victorian portrait of five sisters, each wearing different models of 16th and 17th century scold’s bridals. Through the careful rendering of this brutal practice of imposed marginality, Reid has transformed the sisters into symbolic archetypes of both victimhood and strength. Despite their humiliation, these women hold their dignity in tact, endowed with graceful details and numerous tiny features that offer clues to a narrative extending well beyond the limits of the picture frame.
Perhaps most effective in questioning our contemporary relationship to pictorial representation is the piece The True Wheel, in which a golden plumb bob reflects a distorted segment of Diego Velázquez’s famous portrait Las Meninas. The work positions its viewers as flies on the wall of art history, observing the changing nature of truth and considering the role of the artist as both recorder and interpreter. Like Las Meninas, the ambiguity upheld in Reid’s paintings is central to their continued significance as contemporary works. Aware of how their material, subject matter and style are loaded with the expectation of authenticity, they paradoxically point towards the absurdity of ever having accepted such a claim. In their very nature as history paintings after the death of both history and painting, the works in Hyacinths & Thistles embody a lineage that is alive with evolving stories and promises to populate our future with many more questions than answers.
From Sept 6 – Oct 4, 2014