US Artist Elise Ansel Transforms Old Masters in New Exhibition at Cadogan Contemporary

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Titian, Tarquin and Lucretia, 1571, oil on canvas | Elise Ansel, Lucretia III, 2019, oil on linen

As Frieze week approaches there is plenty to see in London, from Old Masters to cutting edge contemporary art, one exhibition that should definitely be on your radar is yes I said Yes, a solo show by the acclaimed US artist Elise Ansel, opening 1 October at Cadogan Contemporary.

Central to Ansel’s project is her practice of translating Old Master paintings into a contemporary pictorial language through the lens of feminine subjectivity. Comprised of over fifteen paintings, the exhibition includes responses to masterpieces by artists such as Titian, Rubens and Delacroix transforming scenes of violence against women into images of consensual pleasure.

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Titian, The Rape of Europa, 1650–1562, oil on canvas | Elise Ansel, Europa Consensual, 2019, 52.5 x 60 inches, oil on linen

At face value Ansel’s work is not overtly political or feminist but by applying her contemporary female perspective to centuries-old male works of art, Ansel addresses art history’s hegemonic, and often misogynistic, narrative, as well as the continued gender inequality in our society.

Ansel’s ability to turn the tables on these images is aptly summed up by the American novelist Rick Moody who has produced the catalogue text In The Affirmative to accompany the exhibition. Moody comments: ‘One thing I love about Ansel’s approach is that it seems like automatism is a feature, aleatory practice, that is, the paintings are produced repeatedly, improvised, with variations that mark the day of production, each with its aleatory energy, they are the site of a negotiation with the patriarchal history of art, but are made in a collision of painter with pigment and form, and against a model of rigor, exchanging the stable for the unstable, the canonical masterpiece for there placeable sign of the immediate.’

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Peter Paul Rubens, The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, 1618, oil on canvas | Elise Ansel, Dioscuri Consensual, 2019, oil on linen

It is the balance between social statement and painterly process that gives Ansel’s work its compelling combination of depth and accessibility. Her political message may be strong, but it never overshadows the sheer beauty of her paintings, which act as a dialogue not only between artist and viewer, but also artist and artist.

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François Boucher, The Rape of Europa, 1732–34, oil on canvas | Elise Ansel, Europa Consensual (Boucher) II, 2019, oil on linen

The exhibition title, yes I said Yes, is carved from the last line of James Joyce’s Ulysses, specifically Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, the end point of the novel. Slicing and re-arranging words from this text manifests the transformative energy, the sparagmos, the tearing apart, weaving, unravelling, and re-weaving that is the heart of Ansel’s activity. However the context of these words — their position within the novel, who said them and their meaning is also significant. As Moody comments:

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Eugène Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus, 1826, oil on canvas | Elise Ansel, ‘Pink Angels for Delacroix’, 2019, oil on linen

This exhibition may coincide with London’s busiest art period but there is no doubt that it should be high up on your list of exhibitions to see. Throughout these works Ansel uses an idiom of energetic gestural abstraction to mine art historical imagery for colour and narrative structure, abstracting and interrupting the representational content, in order to excavate and transform meanings and messages embedded in the works from which her paintings spring.

While the Old Master counterparts have been included here alongside Ansel’s contemporary works, these new paintings should be and will be viewed independently allowing viewers to reach their own conclusions and find there own references / stories within. You will have this chance from 1 October at Cadogan Contemporary.

Exhibition dates: 1–18 October 2019

Monday — Friday: 10am — 6pm Saturday: 11am — 6pm

87 Old Brompton Road London SW7 3LD

+44 (0)20 7581 5451

info@cadogancontemporary.com

www.cadogancontemporary.com

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Freelance journalist covering fine art, photography, film and tech. UK based

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