On 26 April, Tate Britain will unveil an exhibition by South-African born, London-based artist Lisa Brice. On show at Tate for the first time, Brice’s work includes large-scale new and recent paintings which address the longstanding art-historical tradition of the female nude. Shown alongside sketches, drawings and studies, her paintings recast female subjects from art historical paintings, photographs and the media into new environments, imbuing them with a newfound sense of self possession. This is the latest in Tate Britain’s ongoing Art Now series of free exhibitions showcasing emerging talent and highlighting the latest developments in British art.
Brice’s work depicts women, either alone or in groups, chatting, making themselves up, getting dressed, undressing or escaping the heat of the sun for a beer or a cigarette. Brice captures these women in moments of down-time, engaged in a private world, performing everyday rituals. In so doing, Brice reverses the traditional portrayal of passive female figures by male artists for male viewers and returns power to the women involved. Brice’s heroines are sometimes introspective, yet are never passive. They appear to display themselves on their own terms and for their own pleasure, forcing the viewer to confront their status as an intruder rather than a benign voyeur. Formal devices such as mirrors and windows contribute to the compelling sense of depth and space. The women’s poses often nod to art historical sources, such as the work of Degas, Manet, Picasso and Vallotton. Several paintings will draw on or respond to Tate’s collection, including a new work which takes the form of a resurrected version of John Everett Millais’ Ophelia.
Within her substantial body of work, Brice often makes use of a distinctive blue colour palette. This colour creates a sense of distance from the intimacy of the scene, as well as interrupting any obvious readings of the subject’s ethnicity. For Brice, the blue also evokes to the formidable “Blue Devil” Trinidadian carnival character. These masqueraders are emboldened by a coat of cobalt blue paint, masking their identities. Brice has spent extended periods of time living and working in Trinidad, following a workshop there in 1999 and a residency in 2000 and this ongoing relationship is frequently evident in her paintings.
Born in South Africa in 1968, Lisa Brice is now based in London, while maintaining strong ties to Trinidad. She studied at Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT where she majored in painting. Her first solo exhibition was held in 1993 and has exhibited solo shows in South Africa, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom and the United States.
Art Now is a series of free exhibitions at Tate Britain focusing on new and recent work by emerging artists. Since the 1990s, Art Now has recognized talent at its outset and provided a launching platform for artists who have gone on to become established figures on the international art scene. The series has recently included Marguerite Humeau: Echoes, Simeon Barclay: The Hero Wears Clay Shoes and Edward Thomasson: Together.
Art Now: Lisa Brice is curated by Aïcha Mehrez, Assistant Curator, Contemporary British Art and is supported by the Art Now Supporters’ Circle.