The concepts of self and identity have undergone intense fracturing, repositioning and breakdown in contemporary thought and lifestyle. Advances in communications technology have facilitated a wider expanse of relationships, both in terms of quantity and geographic dispersal. Our interactions with the world are becoming more complex and our place within it harder to define. This gathering of works from Oakville Galleries’s permanent collection suggests that the state of portraiture is likewise a category in flux, one that is actively responding to these states of change.
Rather than following the portrait tradition of representing the identity of the sitter or of offering the ‘essence’ of their subject, these contemporary portraits are considered investigations into how we can speak about the subject. Fractured notions of self are embraced as an opportunity to loosen and emphasize the breadth of the portrait tradition. The burden of creating ‘The Portrait’ is replaced with ‘a portrait’ in which the subject is placed within contexts – within the shifting states of personal, cultural and geographical relationships. The definition of the subject becomes constantly rewritten as the distance between the viewer, the artist and the subject is revealed and disguised. Through a diverse range of approaches, this exhibition explores how we construct our identities in these changing times.
A catalogue with an essay by the curator is available at Oakville Galleries or through www.abcartbookscanada.com. This exhibition is scheduled to tour from June 2003 to December 2004.