Pandora’s Box

by Amanda Houchen

8th – 30th April 2016
Private preview | Thursday 7th of April 2016 from 6pm
Amanda Houchen - Unit G Gallery
Amanda Houchen - Unit G Gallery
Amanda Houchen - Unit G Gallery
Amanda Houchen - Unit G Gallery
Basing her portraits on icons from the early part of the twentieth century, such as Marlene Dietrich and Brigitte Helm, star of the Fritz Lang’s cinematic masterpiece ‘Metropolis’, Amanda Houchen explores and recasts the femme fatale, placing her in a more ambiguous context.
For this exhibition, she is inspired in particular by Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s silent film ‘Pandora’s Box’, in which the director looks at the potential threat of female sexuality – where the central character Lulu played by Louise Brooks, is compared to the figure of Pandora from Greek mythology, who unleashed disaster and destruction into the world.
The central character of each painting both emerges and recedes into a decorative surface, where any formal identity is only ever partially known and the viewer is encouraged to deconstruct the suggested narrative. If the ideals of beauty are then questioned, the sense of empowerment ordinarily inherent in these glamorous images is further subverted through the tension created between the figurative and the abstract.


Amanda’s interest as a painter lies in a fascination with individuals playing out a role in order to exist in an idealised form.  Often drawing inspiration from actresses from the 1920’s and 50’s, the characters that she paints are ephemeral; existing at the time in which they’re recognised by others and belonging to artificial constructions of their own devising.
They display a dedication to the present moment of enacting a role and their appearance seeks to transcend any particular era, a look that’s effectively collaged from different periods. As a figurative painter, to convey this sense of dislocation within her work, she’s keen to create spaces that can’t be put into context.
Her focus is on the temporary nature of this state of performance and stardom. The role can only be enacted for a certain length of time – so there’s a feeling of the tragic, when a sense of oneself depends on the external validation gained through this show. In his essay The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord speaks of escaping the mediocrity of the everyday through creating ‘momentary ambiences of life’ and transforming them into a ‘superior passional quality’. Such has been the aim of performers such as the mime artist Lindsay Kemp, living in character.
Source material for her work includes the more obscure and choreographed settings of burlesque, cabaret or the circus – where people adopt theatrical roles and there’s the element of masquerade. The images that she works from have the potential to be mythical and often already display a certain level of artifice. Combining imagery or tropes from specific eras creates new, unrecognisable images that subvert the viewer’s expectations.
Amanda’s interested in exploring the possibilities and limitations of paint and how applying it in particular ways can call into question certain fundamental concepts such as space, time and identity.
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