Playful, provocative, bawdy, decadent, droll, macabre, haunting, even psychedelic: the paintings of Genieve Figgis are all these things, and more. If you’re in Aspen, don’t miss this exhibit at the Baldwin Gallery where her work is currently on view through March 10.
I’m absolutely wild about the richly colored tableaux vivants of Irish-English subjects created by this talented New York-based Irish painter. But rather than conventional likenesses, her depictions are distinctive distortions. Familiar but uncanny, naughty not nice, hovering between the living and the dead. You’re never quite sure where you are in time or space, or what exactly the relationships are amongst those portrayed.
It’s as if Figges' cast of characters—who stand alone, as couples, or in groups—have stepped out of a novel like Thackerray’s Vanity Fair or an 18th century vintage photograph; a weird dream you had; or, as one observer put it, “kind of looks like an18th-century acid trip.” The scene rendered might be a theatre performance, a social or family gathering, or an individual at repose. Details catch your attention, such as chandeliers with candles, gilded mirrors, or frescoed ceilings, and accoutrements like sumptuous gowns and formal tuxedos. Your eye curiously spends a lot of time traveling around the details of these paintings and the stories they evoke in your imagination about life, love, and death.
Rather than wait to be found by critics or gallerists, Figgis was a disruptor on social media. Years ago while living in Dublin she was brilliant in posting images of her work on Twitter and Instagram, where artist Richard Prince discovered her. Ultimately she found representation by the Half Gallery in New York, and now Baldwin Gallery. And I love Figgis’ images of fashion featured in the February issue of Harper’s Bazaar, “The Art of Fashion,” included in the Baldwin show.
I’m wondering if Figgis got to attend any of Aspen’s legendary Red Mountain or Starwood soirées when she was in town for her opening. If so, I’d be delighted to see any paintings of Aspen mise en scène she may create.