Aleah Chapin is renowned for her unflinching nude portraits of older women, relatives, and friends. Described by painter Eric Fischl as “the best and most disturbing painter of flesh alive today,” Chapin’s bold and intimate portrayals of the human figure have broadened the debate around the visibility of aging in representations of the body.
Over the past year, Chapin has taken an increasingly intuitive approach to painting, resulting in a radical shift of painterly style and process. The new works in this exhibition take their starting point from spontaneous sketches, often made using her non-dominant hand, which are guided by a personal instinctive awareness of self, time, and place. In her paintings, Chapin's automatic drawings are combined with images of her own body and reconfigured into hybrid forms poised at the edge of abstraction.
Fluctuating between imposing rational structures and allowing the paintings to follow their own course, Chapin's new works remain fluid throughout their making, and open to chance. As the title of the exhibition 'Walking
Backwards' suggests, each painting treads a pathway into the unknown, shedding the familiar and building a sense of identity that develops, as Chapin describes, "from the inside out". The titles of the paintings underpin their association with experiences both seen and unseen, such as 'The Opening', a painting with a radiating core; or 'The Prodding', which alludes to the connection between body and mind.
During this recent period, Chapin spent time in the expansive landscape of New Mexico, USA, an area that has attracted artists throughout history due to its wide open spaces and limitless skies. In Chapin's paintings, earth and sky are split distinctly into two planes via a sharp horizon line, providing opposing archetypal symbols for solidity and intangibility. The ground is often fertile with lush vegetation, a reference to the landscape of her home on America's Pacific Northwest coast, while richly graduated skies reveal abstracted elements of light and shape, denoting an awareness of energy and the natural forces of life.