Poker Face

Francoise Nielly's abstracted portraits ...are... striking. Loud. Almost brash. And somehow also intimate. And beautiful. Which is interesting given that their proximity, as in, how close-up the viewer is brought to the subject, is uncomfortable. The subjects almost always appear suspicious of their viewer. And yet there is a vulnerability to them.  You get the feeling of an undercurrent of tension revolving around the subject's exterior persona vs. interior life.

This is amazing to me: Nielly paints these based on black and white photographs, meaning she has an incredible ability for translating dark and light into unexpected colors and values that our eye will still translate as a 3D form.

Also, she paints in big, simple, uninhibited strokes using a palette knife. Watch the video at bottom to see her process-- it will invoke envy at her ability to look at something and translate it almost instantly, instinctually, into the forms and colors that she does.

Click the jump for the rest of the post...

And as I can never resist the "guess the influence" game...
I think Nielly is definitely aware of her predecessors, particularly a few ab-exers and pop artists. Above, Lichtenstein's The Melody Haunts My Reverie, 1965. The echoes of this prototype of a woman that Lichtenstein did over and over are hard to deny.

Secondly, doesn't the somewhat aggressive rendering of her subjects remind you of de Kooning's women (above, Woman I)?

And finally, the garish, un-lifelike colors remind me of Warhol's portraits.  However, though similar in style, I don't find Nielly's use of color to be dehumanizing the way Warhol's was. Although I will say the third one down reminds me a lot of an Avatar, which brings up interesting human/nonhuman questions...

Definitely watch from about 2:00-3:30 for a look at her process. She goes from blank canvas to something totally unidentifiable to a complete portrait with a minimum of brush strokes. When the canvas is only partially done you're like, "What is that?"

PS- Would you have guessed her age and personal style based on her paintings??

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