In this new body of work, artist Shelly Tregoning continues her exploration of physicality and the interpretation of gesture. As a painter and printmaker, the artist creates what she refers to as ‘non-portraits’ – images of the figure in which the identity of the sitter is irrelevant, and our instinctive reading of the human form is everything. Presented as a series of large-scale canvases, this collection responds to conversations surrounding the nature of identity in the 21st century. At a unique time in our history, when definitions of gender, sexuality and even ethnicity are becoming increasingly fluid, and cultures worldwide have seen an unprecedented proliferation of the human image, these paintings seek to reveal the psychological complexities beneath our conscious presentations of self.
Key to these works is the artist’s mastery of drawing: through the application of expressive line, she captures the telling nuances of physical poise and tension, and the unguarded moments of distraction, introspection and vulnerability that are expressed in the shape and flex of the body. Isolated against broad areas of vivid, emotive colour, each figure is at once both disturbing and familiar in a way that provokes our innate sense of mutuality. The fleeting moments of physicality that inform these paintings – the submissive slant of the head, the languid curve of the spine or the pressing, reflexive reach of the fingers – reveal the fragile balance between our psychological and emotional existence, and the carefully curated versions of our public self.