In our millennial age dominated by the confluence of social media and celebrity, anonymity provides a welcome refuge no matter how arbitrary or amorphous a concept. It is the limbic space that permeates social relations, and is the meeting point for ideas in Give Art Space’s current exhibition, “Subject Shall Remain Anonymous”.
While Jeremy Sharma’s paintings, “The Astronaut” and “F1 Racer”, might be conveniently described as literal depictions of their titles, they are not as straightforward as they first appear. Their large scale gives their subjects a sense of importance, but they are hardly gleaming celebrations of any particular celebrity figure in our mass culture. Their power is much more subtle, radiating from a rhythmic sea of painterly washes that add up to a tragic whole.
The figures are awkwardly posed in loose formations, possible hinting at motion and emotion, but with their humanity ultimately obscured. Our eye is drawn towards pools of deep yellow where a head or face should be, providing a dull glow reminiscent of a dying light bulb. Sharma’s subjects are recognizable tropes, but their specific identities are consumed by costume, then also further decontextualized and left to drift afloat in an alien, abstract space.
Visages are also hinted at in Vincent Leow’s three paintings on show, but only as gestural marks which become visible upon closer inspection. They are subsumed within stark, tomb-like silhouettes, occasionally flanked by a disembodied hand. The painter’s gesture isn’t the focus in these works; these paintings act more like images burned into the brain, or after-images from staring at something too long. They are visual black holes, caverns for the mind’s eye to wander into. Their absence of information give the figures portrayed an undeniable presence.
Possibly the most human of the paintings on show are Maya Muñoz’s “Afternoon I” and “Afternoon II”, but even that in itself isn’t saying much. The rawness of Muñoz’s use of colour conjures imaginings of flesh at once inflamed and melting, relishing in the lusciousness of paint. Muñoz’s figures pose with a casual languidness like ghosts in the sun, radiating defiance and blithely unaffected by their turbulent surroundings. Their sheer physicality is the perfect remedy to our generation’s inundation of the internet with Instagram images and Facebook photos.
It would be a mistake to distil the exhibition down to the works of Sharma, Leow, and Muñoz. Their paintings find good company with the other works in the show spanning various mediums. “Subject Shall Remain Anonymous” pulls together artists working in a variety of visual styles and conceptual frameworks, and in a declarative sweep, the show’s title pushes considerations of what these works “are about” to the background. This creates new spaces for the viewer to pursue new lines of inquiry: What information has been obscured or left out in the process of image-creation? At what point does an abstract form become a definite signifier? How hard should we try to grasp for history and meaning within an artwork?