|2000-2001||MA Fine Art||City and Guilds of London Art School, London|
|1975-1978||BA (Hons) Fine Art||Chelsea School of Art, London|
|ONE PERSON EXHIBITIONS|
|2018||Autorretrato||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2016||The Death of the Artist||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2014||Nachrufe / Obituaries||BRAUBACHfive, Frankfurt|
|2014||Obituaries & Other Works||High House Gallery, Oxford|
|2013||D.OA. the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful||Gusford, Los Angeles|
|2012||Obituaries||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2011||9/10/11||KENNY SCHACHTER / ROVE, London|
|2009||An Existential Itch 2001-2008||BRAUBACHfive, Frankfurt|
|2009||An Existential Itch 2001-2008||Loading Bay Gallery, London|
|2008||An Existential Itch 2001-2008||Fishmarket Gallery, Northampton|
|2007||Death from Above||Sartorial Contemporary Art, London|
|SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS|
|2019||10 Years||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2019||Summer Exhibition||Royal Academy, London|
|2019||Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Award||Piano Nobile Gallery, London|
|2019||The Rules of Freedom||Colyer Bristow Gallery, London|
|2017||In Memoriam Francesca Lowe||Old Truman Brewery, London|
|2017||Remains (two-person collaboration with Alistair Gordon)||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2017||Part I: Street Semiotics (curated by Zavier Ellis)||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2015||Black Paintings (curated by Zavier Ellis)||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2015||Doppelganger||No Format Gallery, London|
|2014||The Great War||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2013||War||Jacob’s Island, London|
|2013||Six Degrees of Separation||Wimbledon Art Space, London|
|2012||The End||Jacob’s Island, London|
|2012||The Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4’s New Sensations and THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis, Simon Rumley & Rebecca Wilson)||B1, Victoria House, London|
|2012||The Serpent’s Tail||Witzenhausen Gallery, Amsterdam|
|2012||Polemically Small (curated by Zavier Ellis & Edward Lucie-Smith)||Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham|
|2012||The Id, the Ego and the Superego (curated by Zavier Ellis & Marcela Munteanu)||BRAUBACHfive, Frankfurt|
|2011||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT presents: Polemically Small (curated by||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|Zavier Ellis, Edward Lucie-Smith, Max Presneill & Simon Rumley)|
|2011||The Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4’s New Sensations and THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis, Simon Rumley & Rebecca Wilson)||B1, Victoria House, London|
|2011||Polemically Small (curated by Edward Lucie-Smith)||Klaipeda Culture Centre, Klaipeda|
|2011||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT presents: Polemically Small (curated by Zavier Ellis, Edward Lucie-Smith, Max Presneill & Simon Rumley)||Torrance Art Museum, Torrance|
|2011||The Possessed (curated by John Stark)||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2010||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Shoreditch Town Hall, London|
|2010||Press Art||Museum der Moderne, Salzburg|
|2010||Papyrophilia||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2009||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Old Truman Brewery, London|
|2009||New London School (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Gallerie Schuster, Berlin|
|2008||New London School (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Mark Moore Gallery, Los Angeles|
|2007||Still Life, Still||T1+2 Gallery, London|
|2006||New London Kicks||Wooster Projects, New York|
|2005||Fuckin’ Brilliant||Tokyo Wonder Site, Tokyo|
|2005||Art News||Raid Projects, Los Angeles|
|2005||Art News||Three Colts Gallery, London|
|2005||USUK||Lab Gallery, New York|
|2005||Green Door||Sartorial Art, London|
|2004||Forest||Rockwell Gallery, London|
|2003||Chockafukingblocked||Jeffery Charles Gallery, London|
|2002||Yesteryearnowadays||Hales Gallery, London|
|AWARDS & RESIDENCIES|
|2003||Fresh Art ‘Artist of the Year’|
|2011||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT||Exhibition Catalogue|
|2008||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT||Exhibition Catalogue|
|2008||An Existential Itch, Craig Burnett||Fishmarket Publications (ISBN 978-0-9555 706)|
|Wendy Asher, Los Angeles|
|Jerry Hall, London|
|Mauritz Huntzinger, Frankfurt|
|Angela Nikolakopoulou, London|
|Peter Nobel, Zurich|
|Kelsey Offield Ford, Los Angeles|
|Kenny Schachter, London|
|Steve Shane, New York|
|Bill Wyman, London|
|Wooster Projects, New York|
|Private collections in China, Germany, United Kingdom & United States|
|Autorretrato: The Female Gaze|
|PRIVATE VIEW Thursday 13 February 6:30-8:30pm|
|EXHIBITION DATES Friday 14 February – Saturday 14 March 2020|
|GALLERY HOURS Wednesday-Saturday 11am-6pm or by appointment|
|‘Taking obituaries out of context is a very important aspect of my practice. Fundamental. I hope to engage the viewer in an entirely different way. Painting is a very slow process.’
CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Hugh Mendes in his first solo since his sell-out 2018 exhibition ‘Autorretrato’. In response to that exhibition, where he made a series of obituary paintings based almost entirely on self-portraits of male artists, Mendes switches focus here. Having emphasised the inherited bias of a male dominated history of western art, Mendes continues by affirming the breadth and power of women artists from the 16th to 20th centuries who are influential and inspirational to him.
Mendes began making still life paintings of newspaper articles in 2001. As his practice has evolved his intentions have become gradually more specific, progressing from painting mostly political articles to obituaries of those of interest generally, to obituaries of artists and then those derived solely from self-portraits. Mendes also began to revert from the present exclusively to historical figures. And always, throughout his career, he has steadfastly painted subjects of profound personal interest.
Mendes goes to great lengths to understand his subjects. As an experienced artist and BA / MA tutor at City & Guilds of London Art School, he is most often familiar with their life and work. However, Mendes embarks on deep research by reading; watching videos; listening to interviews where possible; and most importantly going to visit the original work. He seeks to bring the persona of the artist into his studio; and almost inhabit their work, entering into a profound dialogue with his subjects. The result is slow painting that represents an intriguing synthesis of the style of Mendes; his subjects; and the mechanical reproductive processes that occur in between.
Please contact gallery for images and further information
|Autorretrato – Part 2
|In my text for the previous version of this exhibition of work by Hugh Mendes, which consisted almost entirely of recapitulations of self-portraits made by male artists, I noted that it was “paradoxical that an artist should now choose to repeat, as exactly as he can, these originally self-generated likenesses”. I also noted that “in part this belongs to a recently established tendency in the visual arts, where ‘appropriations’ - more or less exact copies of pre-existing images - are put forward as embodiments of contemporary originality”.
The paradoxes accumulate here, in a new series devoted to self-portraits by women. A major paradox, of course, is that all these borrowed images have been made by a man. Or, to be exact, almost all. The image of Rrose Sélavy is of course a portrait of himself in drag by Marcel Duchamp, indubitably male. The image of Georgia O’Keeffe is not direct appropriation from one of O’Keeffe’s self-portraits, but is instead, as research on the web discloses, based on a likeness in the style of O’Keeffe made by a male artist called Jacques Moitoret. The image offers a few tweaks, which distinguish it from O’Keeffe’s own self-likenesses.
What strikes one about these images of women, originally created by themselves and now skilfully appropriated here, is that they seem much more polemical than their male equivalents. They all have something to say about the female condition, in terms of the time when the image was made.
To choose just a few examples, starting with two of the earliest - Artemisia Gentileschi (soon to be the subject of an exhibition at the National Gallery), and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun - one notes what they had to say about the situation of the female artist when women as professional participants in the art world were rare. Gentileschi uses herself as the model for a saint, complete with halo and martyr’s palm. There is a sidelong reference here to the fact that female models, in the studios of early Baroque Italian art were, more often than not, women of easy virtue. In contrast to this, the portraitist Vigée Le Brun working at a somewhat later epoch, presents herself as a woman of fashion, fully the equal of the sitters who came to her. Closely associated with Marie Antoinette in the years just before the French Revolution, Vigée Le Brun prudently exiled herself from France in October 1789 and spent the following twelve years living and working in Italy, Austria, Russia and Germany. In these locations she made likenesses of many royal and aristocratic clients, chiefly women. In her elegant self-portrait, made as testimony to her own skill, she portrayed herself as fully the equal in social rank to the members of this exalted clientele.
The bulk of the images in the show offer likenesses of Modern and contemporary women artists. One of the earlier examples in this category is the portrait of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who painted a large number of self-portraits (they form the majority of her output). They often, as here, show her in some form of generic Mexican costume, to emphasise her immersion in indigenous Mexican culture, as opposed to what might be offered by the European and North American art of the same period. Kahlo has had a remarkable posthumous career. Patronisingly referred to as “dear little Frida” by her husband Diego Rivera, the celebrated Mexican muralist, she has now probably outstripped him in worldwide renown, and has become the best-known of all the Mexican artists of her time.
Kahlo is the only Latin American artist included. Many of the others are British or from the United States. This is reasonable, both in terms of the fact that the show is being presented here in London, and of the fact that North American female artists have been, in recent years, leaders in the struggle for full recognition of women’s creativity in the visual arts. To a certain degree, artists in this category have tended to oscillate between the wish to produce a likeness and the (often contrary) wish to make something that seems radically new. The early self-portrait of the radical American abstractionist Agnes Martin (1912-2004) seems to have little to do with the kind of art she produced through most of the years of her career.
Similarly, the brutal self-image by Eva Hesse (1936-1970) has not much to do with the Post Minimalist style with which she is usually associated. The Wikipedia article on Hesse tells one that: “Hesse’s work often shows minimal physical manipulation of a material while simultaneously completely transforming the meaning it conveys”. There is no trace of such a process in the self-portrait by her repeated in this exhibition.
Paradoxically, however, more and more self-images are now being produced by the leading artists of our time, male as well as female. The hunt for the self has never been more voracious.
|The Inverted Gaze
|“For in its afterlife...the original undergoes a change” - Walter Benjamin
In 1972 John Berger suggested that “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled”. The male gaze, he argued in Ways of Seeing, for centuries defined the way we looked at the female subject. That subject, in turn, aware that she was being looked at, stared out from the picture space – whether in Ingres’ Grande Odalisque or a porno pinup - with an expression calculated to titillate the male viewer. In both post-Renaissance European painting and contemporary girly magazines a woman, Berger suggested, “has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life”. Yet all images, he implied, are ambiguous because there are always alternative narratives, alternative stories. Other ways of seeing. Past and present coalesce in a turbulence of contradiction.
Imagine two mirrors facing each other. You stand in the middle and your image multiplies, becoming more and more distant from your original self. Each reflection is watched by those in the other mirrors, becoming further removed. Meaning is distorted, modified and gradually changed. As Walter Benjamin argued, in an age of pictorial reproduction, the initial reading of a painting or object is altered by the making of copies. It is within this prism of reflected meanings that Hugh Mendes has created his series of female self-portraits in the form of obituaries. These follow on from his recent show where the subjects were almost all men. After the death of his father Mendes went back to art school to do an MA. He had been painting newspaper-based images since he graduated in 2001. The first was an iconic photograph of Princess Margaret by her, then, husband, Lord Snowden. Around this time, he also began to notice the often unconventional images used by The Independent newspaper in their obituaries. Until this point he had been painting still lives. Now he was to move from natures mortes to painting death notices.
Pre-photography the only way for an artist to record their presence was through the self-portrait. For a female artist to paint herself, rather than be the subject of a male painter, was to take agency over the way she presented herself to the world. Within art history it has all too often been stated that there were few women artists of real talent. Yet the structural sexism of art schools and academia actively contributed to the perpetuation of gender hierarchies. In this series Hugh Mendes not only acknowledges female artists of exceptional talent from Sofonisba Anguissola to Frida Kahlo but inverts the proprietorial ownership implicit in the male gaze into a complex conundrum. Here a contemporary male artist paints copies of historic female self-portraits taken from images reproduced in newspapers. In this hall of distorting mirrors, we are left with more questions than answers. Who is doing the looking? What is truth and what fiction? With whom does the narrative voice lie? If it is the case, as much feminist art history claims, that the male gaze bestowed on the female subject is a form of consumption and paternalism, how are we to read this intricate interplay, or understand gender and (re)production when the images being produced are self-portraits by female artists of the far and near past, used by a contemporary male artist?
In his essay The Task of the Translator, Walter Benjamin suggests that: “translatability is an essential quality of certain works, which is not to say that it is essential that they be translated; it means rather that a specific significance inherent in the original manifests itself in its translatability…by virtue of its translatability the original is closely connected with the translation; in fact, this connection is all the closer since it is no longer of importance to the original”. It is this act of translation that lies at the heart of Hugh Mendes’ enterprise. As he stated when I visited him in his studio, “Art is an act of the imagination. What matters is to get into the headspace of my subjects.” In so doing he brings fresh expression to the way these images are read, and these women are reassessed in an era of the copy and social media.
He finds most of his images online, prints them out and makes a collage using the original newspaper typeface. The first were accurate transcriptions of the source image but, more recently, he has begun to make them up. All his subjects are of personal significance to him. He tries to give a strong sense of the person. He looks at their notebooks, watches videos, and attempts to create dialogues. The original newsprint obituaries are flimsy and ephemeral, but his careful, studious paintings become a form of reincarnation where the impermanent becomes permanent, the transitory ossifies into a lasting memento mori.
Hugh Mendes is a great craftsman and a teacher at the City & Guilds of London Art School. He knows about colour theory and how to draw. His academic prowess is visible throughout this project. It is not simply a question of making copies. These paintings are not taken from life but from a flat photo, already at one remove from the subject. He subtly alludes to and understands the different styles and techniques, how each artist used colour, while making the work recognisably his own.
Stand in front of these paintings and the subjects all make eye contact with the viewer, challenging assumptions about the self-portrait, the role of women in art and our understanding of the copy. In this hall of mirrors truth becomes multi-layered, a complex palimpsest of meanings where the ephemeral is rendered permanent. Through this transformative process of looking, these women artists are not only returned to themselves, but create a haunting discourse on gender, history and reproduction.