The group exhibition 'Masked Ball' presents portraits of people in a variety of marks – from animal heads to cheese slices.
Laura Hensser takes self-portraits, wearing mundane objects that suggest her memories. Hiding behind a false façade, the artist challenges the conventions of performance based self-portraiture. Rather than presenting external details, the artist's face is concealed and we see only hints of her internal self. In one, cup cakes are stuck to her face like inverted limpets. In another, cheese slices are pushed into every crevice of Hensser's face, merging to form a mask that resembles latex. Whether her face is covered with glistening, red jelly or swaddled by a map, the viewer is offered little clue as to the sitter's identity or persona.
James Reid presents a departure from the norm of masked balls, with humans wearing formal clothing and animal heads – from oversize, colourful chicken heads to comic horse heads. The urge to read emotion in animal faces is invoked here - do the animal masks tell us anything of the sitters? Or do they simply conceal the emotions on their faces? The series was shot on location in big brand boutique stores in Paris - Reid questions whether buying branded clothing offers the chance to escape identification, to take on different personas.
Stuart Southwell presents portraits of three generations, dressed for a variety of roles (from a general to a doctor) and in distorted, disturbing masks. Southwell explores the way in which we are shaped by others around us, adopting or rejecting hobbies, careers, and ideals. Southwell believes that in contemporary Western society we are unable to accept our 'true selves' but instead choose to constantly recraft our physical appearance to suit any given situation. These macabre portraits suggest the extent to which we may have become puppets of the media.
Curator Louise Forrester comments: "Although each photographer is using masks in portraiture, the results in each series is markedly different. Some unsettling, some funny, there is something here for everyone."
Accompanying this exhibition, Nigel Rumsey presents a pop-up photo booth in the gallery on Saturday 27 & Sunday 28 March (12-4pm). Members of the public will be able to take their own self-portrait, either masked or unmasked, in the booth. Photographs taken will be printed out on the spot for the sitters to take home, and included in a slideshow of images projected in the gallery all weekend. This is a unique experiment to interact, and become part of, an exhibition - pop down to the pop-up photo booth and get involved!
'Masked Ball' is part of ‘Be a Local Tourist in Greenwich’ (BLTG) event, which runs from 20 March to 28 March 2010, and also British Tourism Week (15 to 21 March 2010).
Viewfinder Photography Gallery
Peyton Place (off Royal Hill)