The Contemporary Art Society recently presented five works on paper by the South African artist Lisa Brice to The Whitworth, Manchester, a gift through the Holly Peterson Foundation. Untitled comprises a set of gouache works on paper from her series of female nudes established in 2014. The figures are captivating, both abstract and represented in an ethereal style. There is both an air of liberation and secrecy conveyed in the works. There is inhibition in the intimacy yet there is also mystery. The figures inhabit interior worlds which feel private, where they relax, slouch and smoke with a sense of assuredness.
Cobalt-blue is a signature colour of Brice’s, which creates both distance from race and a depth in form. Neither gendered or racially specific, feminine but not female. The colour is also inspired by Brice’s time spent in Trinidad & Tobago. The Jab Molassie (Devil Molasses) is a masked representation of the devil in the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. The performer is smeared in blue or black dye from head to toe to mask their identity and create havoc. In Brice’s work the blue represents boundaries, the blue mask enables the figures to reclaim control over how they are perceived.
Untitled explores feminine confidence and pleasure through mundane activities and poses, whilst challenging the authority of the gaze. In contrast to representations by Manet, Picasso or Degas, Brice’s subjects challenge traditional representations of women in the art historical canon. In recent years, The Whitworth has been acquiring works on paper that show female artists representing women. For The Whitworth, these drawings by Brice will strengthen this area of the collection, confronting historic works that display the female nude as depicted by men.
Lisa Brice (b.1968, Cape Town, South Africa) lives and works in London. Recent solo shows include Stephen Friedman, London (2019), Tate Britain, London (2019) and Salon 94, New York (2017). Recent group shows include Stephen Friedman, London (2020), Thaddaeus Ropac, London (2019) and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town (2018).
Gifted by the Holly Peterson Foundation through the Contemporary Art Society, 2019/20