Aristocratic Demons: Satirical Appropriation and the Grotesque in the Work of Genieve FiggisShow full item record
|Aristocratic Demons: Satirical Appropriation and the Grotesque in the Work of Genieve Figgis
|Master of Arts
|Genieve Figgis famously references canonical paintings in much of her work. But while she gestures towards the familiar, the melting faces of her figures incite feelings of the grotesque, displacing the viewer’s sense of recognition, and prompting an engaged gaze which begins to dismantle the value system that canonized the works she copies. I begin this paper by placing Figgis as an inheritor of the grotesque tradition. The grotesquerie that defines Figgis’s paintings is reliant upon her appropriation and the recognizability of the works she selects as subjects. Figgis paints in a way that appropriates artistic convention while simultaneously upsetting it. Her referential pieces pull from history while refuting the value systems of academic art. I focus specifically on versions of Fragonard’s The Swing and Manet’s Olympia in formulating an understanding of her appropriative tendencies. Examination of these paintings foregrounds the role of the gaze in Figgis’s work. Her paintings of women pulled from a canonical tradition populated by male artists constitutes an oppositional gaze that grants agency to her subjects and spotlights the inherent voyeurism of artist and audience. Her style of painting, which echoes the provisional painting style of faux naïf painting and the “bad” painting of the 1970s, is integral to the subject and substance of her work. Her rejection of technical precision is a relinquishing of artistic control that upends gendered ideas of genius and artistic prowess. Instead, Figgis’s painting style demands interpretation on the part of her audience. Though her reference points are centuries-old, Figgis is contemporary in her combination of tradition, denial of practiced technique, and embrace of appropriation. Her contemporary relevance stems from a point of view that opposes and reveals the male gaze in the paintings she quotes and redefines the female nude as a symbol of agency in art.
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