Hector de Gregorio’s exhibition - New Work - at the Opus Gallery in Newcastle looks to be spectacular. His portraits are so heavily a product of art past; yet pose the most creative solution I’ve long seen to art future.
Could the heritage of portraiture be more blinding? – the realism of Caravaggio, the elegance and beauty of the Renaissance artists, the overindulgence of the Baroque period, the grotesque of Hieronymus Bosch, and then (inevitably in such a varied composite) the surrealism of Dali. These stylistic influences are blended delicately, and yet the result is far from subtle. It’s edgy, and it is in fact very contemporary, proving a valuable point - that to reference what has past, is not to be stuck in the past yourself.
Partially the appearance is subtle because of the artist’s confidence in and exploration of a mixture of mediums. It starts with a photograph, which is taken of the sitter, then, he or she is dressed in digital and physical (oil paint) layers, adorned in golf leaf, waxed and varnished. Partially it is much more…
‘Queen’ is perhaps my favourite. A serpent Queen Lizzie I, has acquired a Gaga quiff, a dress fitted with 80’s shoulder-pads, a 50’s waistline, and cut from 16th century material, yet she is poised as a Hindu goddess...? Then there’s the suggestion of lust AND chastity, which cause a tension that continually teases and perplexes the viewer. Her cherry red lips, and yet her porcelain blemish-free skin, her devil’s tail that could strike one deathly swing; and yet her hair is the red of the Virgin Queen’s. Who can she mean to be?
Certainly, so contrite, she plays a role. This is Cindy Sherman’s 1980’s masquerading pieces and then some. The sitter has been hidden amongst numerous identities, which is a point Sherman very concept. Cindy Sherman dresses herself one by one as a series of female personas, which she records in photographic portraits. De Gregorio dresses his sitters as many identities in one image.
This is an even more contemporary concept – that individuals carry not one, but many identities all within one body. The subtlety in which the artist combines what is contradictory in ‘Queen,’ illustrates that his portraits are not to be read as montages in which elements are placed along side each other but do not become one. They are one, diverse individual.
A bold blending of mediums and styles makes de Gregorio the new de Chirico.
De Gregorio’s new works opened at the beginning of the week and remain in the Opus Gallery until the end of July: