Apr 142008

Sandra Flood is a self-taught artist living and working in the USA. She paints in a variety of genres; her figurative, abstract, still life and landscape pieces may be seen on her website and blog. Several stylistic features reminiscent of Edgar Degas, a proclaimed influence, may be traced in her artwork — but always filtered through a distinctly personal interpretation. Her color is darker on the one hand, but less earnest on the other: one of the most peculiar qualities of her work is the coexistence of a gloomy palette with an ironic mood. This seeming mild paradox makes for an exciting viewing; though slightly disconcerting at first, it is particularly satisfying for a somewhat jaded audience. Sandra’s work is different, it’s an acquired taste, but the effort is worth it.

Her female models possess the elitist star quality of real life catwalk models, only the painted ones display their attitude rather than the clothes. The garments do play a role — an important but still a secondary one — of enhancing the show. The portrayed figures almost always pose, seeking to derive the maximum out of the usually vacant space around them: posture, limbs and head serve as compositional attributes, the body eventually being more than the sum of its parts — a capricious, willful or otherwise characteristic frame. Some of the pieces disclose a tendency towards portraiture, facial expression and pose being psychologically revealing. Color fuses, sometimes quite forcefully, with compositional features to either accentuate or subvert them.

In some of her works the artist demonstrates a preference for unnaturally bright colors; for instance the brightest pink or salad green that seem to have a role beyond the decorative. It could be the tool that conveys the individual traits of the model, or which the artist expects the audience to read into the model’s character. These patches of hue shock and confuse (reactions which may indeed add up to our perception of the model’s emotional state) , because they appear out of tune with the general atmosphere. However, as I mentioned above, this counter-intuitive trend is what makes the artwork fascinating– it’s not a formal trick, mind you — but a sassy painterly device that adds depth and is always in place when it appears.

Looking at these paintings my mind almost unwillingly wanders into the contemporary feminist discourse, to which these series may serve as a good introduction. Naturally this is a personal understanding — I am reading political ideas into the artist’s work. But if we compare the hunched and bended poses of the women portrayed by Degas with Sandra Flood’s erect, proud and self-conscious models, it is easy to notice — the latter’s enjoy an evident advantage.

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