Portrait of the Artist by Riisa Gundesen

Portrait of the Artist
by Riisa Gundesen
The Art Incubator Gallery . March 1 – April 13, 2019
Opening Reception: Friday, March 1, from 7 pm – 10 pm
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 St, Edmonton

This series reflects my ongoing research into the abject, the monstrous threat that lingers, just out of sight, in the peripheries – of body, of mind, of place.

Drawing on the European painting trope of the sedate, these self-portraits begin as nudes and natures mortes but gradually lose their form in areas of high texture, colour, and abstraction, and become unsettling and abominable. By establishing my own living spaces and daily rituals as the site of something unsettling, I aim to convert the voyeurism typical of this genre to one of grotesque intimacy.

In the same manner, these portraits are intended to explore the gendered panopticism women operate under, that is a constant feeling or assumption of being observed. Under such a condition, performance becomes a habit, even in the privacy of the home and in solitude, and produces a conflict of identity: half caught in this feminine performance, half possessed by the creeping and vulgar urge to disobey. Through my work, I hope to encourage the idea of an anti-performance, not a lack of performativity but something inverted; a deliberate and opposite reflection.

Like a horror movie, there is an attraction here, a sickly desire mixed inextricably with disgust. The abject denies the object the anticipated mirror of desire. The non-object, difficult to commodify, falls out of bounds, out of control.

–  Riisa Gundesen

Artist’s Biography

Riisa Gundesen is an emerging Edmonton-based visual artist, specializing in portraiture and figure. She received her BFA in Studio Art from the University of Lethbridge in 2012, and her MFA in Painting from the University of Saskatchewan in 2017. Her impressive body of work has been a subject of numerous group exhibitions in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the recent solo exhibition “Intrusive Thoughts: Self-Portraits” is featured at the Gallery Gachet  in Vancouver, BC until March 16, 2019. In the context of contemporary figurative painting, her work deals with femininity, mental illness, and the abject. Gundesen currently teaches visual art at the University of Alberta and the City Art Centre in Edmonton, AB.

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