For over a year, Muirhead has been working on a collection of images that explore the fetishisation of people we adore or lust after. In her current series of work titled ‘Scopophilia’, Sarah Muirhead explores both the beholder’s gaze and the corporeal process of painting.
Through a psychoanalytic lens, Muirhead’s paintings focus on depictions of professional extroverts (often performers) who offer an expanded creative field by which to illustrate the feelings and desires of an introvert – namely the artist.
“Each subject appears realistic, touchable and tangible but their incarnation is unreal, unreachable”, says Muirhead.
Her idealised subject at once appears frozen — as if a beautiful mirage — yet is also physical and bodily. Her subjects become objectified, even dehumanised icons, and as such revisit and reconfigure an ancient visual path littered with tormented and beatified religious icons, and the love they engendered.
The new series of paintings in ‘Scopophilia’ represent the artist’s attempt to paint and draw her own voyeuristic tendencies, recording and celebrating her beautiful friends who represent different sub-cultures, creative movements and alternative expressions of self. This latest work is part of a long-standing practice and a wider meditation on the representation of gender and sexuality. It examines the concept of ‘a perfect glass wall’ between us and the people we observe.
As Muirhead says: “I want there to be a glimmer of the real person being objectified, idealised or fetishised. The representational side of the work should still be a kind of documentation of people under my spotlight.”
‘Scopophilia’ (defined as the morbid urge to gaze, or a pleasure from looking) is a meditation about gender, sexuality and self. The subject is aware they are being looked at and Muirhead is interested in the silent dynamic between the two sides. Since her first encounter with the word in one of her favourite films Michael Powell's ‘Peeping Tom’ (1960), Muirhead has been fascinated by different people’s own subjective interpretation of the world, whether they moralise, recoil or sympathise with the notion of the morbid urge to gaze.
Muirhead’s work treads the line between the figurative and the abstract, combining both classical compositions and surreal, futuristic elements to create other-worldly scenes. She explores the juxtaposition between the sexually charged nature of figurative art and the fixed artistic canon which dictates what is and is not deemed acceptable subject matter. Her work highlights and energises parts of the body which are not traditionally sexualised and plays with the notion of the dominant and submissive roles taken on by the subject and their viewer. The gaze of the subject invites the viewer's own gaze to linger, creating an ambiguity in this power dynamic. Consequently, Muirhead attempts to challenge the accepted perceptions of male and female bodies inherited from mass media and classical art alike.
Born in Glasgow, Muirhead graduated from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) in 2009. She was nominated one of '10 New Sensations' by a panel including Kirsty Wark. Muirhead's work has recently adorned the walls of Oxford University as part of a series of portraits commissioned to challenge the stereotypical representations of Oxonians.
This exhibition will be running from 4th October - 4th November 2017. You are warmly invited to join us on the 3rd October for a private viewing of the exhibition at the gallery between 6:30 - 9.30pm.
Please RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org to add your name to the guest list.
We will be serving beer, wine & cocktails throughout the evening at our ArtBar!