Art Forum – Critics’ Picks

lady in waiting

18. Oktober 2008
by Ana Finel Honigman

ELEVEN 11 Eccleston Street September 18–October 18

Martha Parsey’s exhibition, titled “Solid Gold,” exposes chilling cracks in wealth’s cool gilded surfaces. The young Cologne-based British artist’s striking series of eight new paintings presents polished and pampered blond beauties floating through unfinished and abstracted interiors. As a follow-up to Parsey’s series “The Maids,” in which she painted petulant, coltish beauties isolated in sexless maids’ uniforms or grooming their passive mistresses, “Solid Gold” is more than mere illustration of “the other half.” Its beautiful and blessed young trophies have the immaculate icy allure, languid loveliness, and chiseled perfection of haute blonds spotted in countless luxury fashion spreads and at the exclusive events convened by the supposed upper echelons of society. Yet these privileged creatures do not seem pleased or satisfied in their rarefied, hermetic world. Instead, they appear disconnected from their vague environments and, like the restless characters in Jean Renoir’s La Règle du Jeu (1939) or Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006), the expressions on their elegant ice-princess faces are vacant and slightly stunned. Under the gloss of shimmering, nearly transparent metallic color that Parsey delicately applies to their faces and bodies, these creatures radiate the warmth and flexibility of marble. But beating under the paintings’ placid surfaces is a disconcerting but unmistakable tattoo of impending class warfare. Its most overt signals are occasional aggressive, thick splashes of red-streaked white, pale yellow, or off-tan. The oil paint erupts from the raw canvas and catches on a woman’s body, fur coat, or dress, like globs of phlegm spat toward fragile, skittish, brittle contemporary aristocratic creatures.

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