There is a uniquely farcical and tragic quality in Jean Paul Sartre’s depiction of an afterlife presenting it in a mundane situation, a characterisation that can easily be substituted with the living’s own present realities. In his play “No Exit,” three strangers are locked up in a room with no way out, enduring each other’s proclivities and nuisances for the rest of eternity – personifying hell through others.
In Kaloy Sanchez’ solo exhibition, the idea of confinement and fleshing out the ‘self’ is further explored and paralleled through his studio practice. His works conjures the mundane process of an artist gazing into his subjects, intently capturing every detail until they dissolve as mere objects; as models waiting to be transferred on a canvas; as skin sacks full of bones brought to life with every brush strokes and markings on a cloth.
The tone and theme are exhumed through his depiction of the room – the artist’s studio. In each painting, we get a glimpse of the unfurnished walls and pavement enclosing the room as if resembling a bare containment space. Sitting individuals pose within this space, caught up in their own thoughts and devoid from the outside world where nothing and everything changes at the same time. Sanchez’ approach to his nude portraiture eliminates the romantic ideation of the body with his signature painting style and by allowing his sitters to take a naturalistic stance. The paintings somehow take the viewers inside the individuals’ personal place within their intimate moments but present us the irony that they are knowingly being seen; gazed at and observed with their entirety. Sanchez also allows himself to be vulnerable and exposed, posing as one of his subjects and depicting the privacy in his studio with no one to look at except for objects found within the room.
“No Exit” provides us a microcosmic representation of our society. The notion that “familiarity breeds contempt” is set in isolation but can be expanded in a worldview where the anonymous everybody injects an insight into our lives. Tethered in reality subsumed from personal introspection, both Sartre’s and Sanchez’ depiction of ‘others’ allow the audience to reflect on the implications of one’s self to people around them. The series of works challenges viewers to see pass the surfaces of the skin with all its flaws and see through the personhood within a body – to see the self within.
If you weren’t around, I’d probably be someplace way the hell off… You’re the only reason I’m around, practically.”
- J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye