Belgian artist Saskia Pintelon’s solo exhibition at SFG consists of works from two series, small mixed media-collages and large mixed-media collages.
The smaller works are part of an ongoing project whereby the artist revisits her own work in the published, printed leporello ‘The Book of Faces’ whereby Pintelon customizes her own ‘Faces’ and turns them into ‘Other Faces’ Pintelon’s idiosyncratic obsession to alter, destroy, subvert her own work in printed version with collages and mixed media and thereby give birth to thousands of new images has led her down a path untraveled by any other in the history of art.
As the artist has appropriated, cut, pasted and remixed images, she has recycled and repurposed her own work and the found photographic images with a never-ending capacity to surprise. She has created unlikely imagery patchworks, amalgams of diverse sources and thought processes. This kaleidoscope of images depicts faces in the realm between beautiful and grotesque and these fractured misconstruals are strangely enough credible. They seem to offer us a glimpse into not only the possibilities of the physical attributes of man’s face but more so into the machinations of the mind. They become portraits, individuals staring back at us defiantly imbued with all the joys and sorrows of life. They talk of how we see ourselves, of how we accept or reject our physical appearance. The images talk of a search for identity with occasional words by Pintelon - ‘Who am I’, ‘I like myself’, ‘Traveling through oneself’.
The images show us the duality in each of us, of the real us and the us we show to the world. In this day and age the work is even more relevant as people feel the need to have different personas, the private, inner one, the social one in the real world and the online persona. As the world is increasingly concerned with image and looks, with people portraying a blessed, online version of themselves in the exhibitionistic-voyeuristic world of selfies, plastic surgery, Facebook and Instagram. In a narcissistic era that thrives on likes, an image says more than words. As man increasingly communicates with images and emoticons we move into an era where the face is the ambassador of each of us. This new era with all it’s glory and glamour, with all its pathos and misery is depicted in Pintelon’s work. Pintelon challenges the obsession with looks and instead gives us humane images of mankind, revealing unspoken and intangible things.
Her combinations span all sorts of references, which she mixes irreverently into patchworks of her mind. These portraits are all in some form autoportraits of Pintelon’s being as she threads the line between the personal and the universal. In her collage she transcends and defies patrimony, national culture or indeed copyright.
In her struggle and search to let go and hold on, in the juggle between spontaneity and rigorous search, between the instinctive and the cognitive she challenges conventions and reinvents her own reality. A reality where beauty canons do not exist and people can proudly bare their dual personalities. The resulting images are an illustration of the instinctive and cognitive coming together of found material and the unexpected twists of Pintelon’s mind.
The large mixed, monochrome, mixed media collages are a continuation of the work on ‘The Book of Faces’. They do have a new approach as the artist begins with a blank page and then adds on. Collage in this size proved more challenging as collected from various sources is invariably smaller and so she had to resort to other ways of mixing and matching. The themes are some of her recurring ones related to age, beauty, gender, internet use, love, obsession with fitness, isolation, loneliness and the balance between the public and the private us.
Pintelon provides us a kaleidoscope of the physical and the emotional in her characteristic tongue-in-cheek approach as she subtracts, extracts and adds to give us a glimpse into what makes us really human.