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Rozi Demant created no small amount of controversy and sensation by being one of the few New Zealand artists to experience 5 sell out shows in succession s ...
Rozi Demant created no small amount of controversy and sensation by being one of the few New Zealand artists to experience 5 sell out shows in succession since her first solo show in 2002 at age 17. In marked contrast to the hype surrounding her work, Demant herself is shy and does not seek publicity. Originally working from her studio in the provincial town of Whakatane, Demant now paints and resides in suburban Auckland. When asked to speak about her work, she is reserved. “To talk about my paintings feels like I am exposing too much of myself, this is something I can’t and won’t do.”
Her work is deeply personal and the sole female protagonist in her paintings bears a striking resemblance to the artist – it cannot be ignored that her paintings are a possible reflection of herself. The artist is also adamant that although her work is highly symbolic, she wants viewers to interpret its meaning for themselves. Just like the Surrealist paintings of Picasso, Dali and Magritte (whom she cites as inspirations), much is left to the realms of the imagination and the subconscious. This is something which is important to Demant, as she feels that her work is better left to private contemplation in order to retain its particular mystery.
Demant’s surrealized women, who possess something of Modigliani’s style in their appearance, reside in dark, opulent, fantasy worlds. Her work continues to become more detailed and the mastery of her medium is apparent with each new body of work. This confidence is manifested in more intrepid subjects and imaginative narratives. Although her work has always been erotic through its use of burlesque-type characters dressed in revealing corsetry, in Lovebirds, her work has become more overtly sexual. Demant introduced a white-haired character who adopts feline-like poses on the end of a chain, presided over by her captive – a sombre dark-haired woman in gothic dress. The introduction of this character is decidedly different from her previous work which contained only one repeated female protagonist. Whereas in earlier works, the main character still retained childlike qualities, these new paintings are undeniably of mature women.
Although sexually provocative, Demant’s women always retain the elegance and poise of a balancing ballerina. Their elongated legs and exaggerated female proportions lend them a vulnerability and innocence that belies their sexual, sometimes tortured behaviour. The Amaranthus Caudates (Loves Lies Bleeding flower) was a focal point in the series “Love Lies Bleeding” with a vivid blood-red hue suffusing the rich colour pallete of the works. Here there is tension between captor and captive, with the viewer left unsure as to who plays which role. In some paintings, the lonely, unobtainable protagonist purges cages from her mouth; while in others she holds them in her hand, confident, assertive, holding the feline characters captive.
Demant is continually inventive and perhaps in each series there are aspects of herself that she is tentatively exposing, or as of yet, unwilling to free.
Demant’s latest works which consist in the main of self-portraits, show a further development where each demeanour differs in a subtle way. Self-portraits are often guides or signposts which lead to the revelation of the character or personality of the subject. In several paintings the artist as protagonist is delicately cloaked in chain of gold mica, some attached to cages, while the heads are further decorated with exquisite floral adornments. The pensive and wistful figures are attended by a humming bird or dragonfly, endearing props which Demant has more recently woven into the fabric of her unique imagery. The alluring yet impassioned expressions add a further dimension to the mystery and intrigue frequently associated with this ongoing theme of Demant’s oeuvre.
Although Demant’s work also draws comparisons with Pop Surrealism, she continues to be wholly unique and idiosyncratic in her approach. There is a subtlety and delicacy to her work that is clearly her own. Demant’s singular talent, coupled with her position as somewhat of an outsider, allows her work to remain distinctive and unclassifiable.
Rozi Demant was a featured artist in the international art book “Dark Stories by Dark Artists” published by CYPI Press, London in 2012.
2015 New Works, Warwick Henderson Gallery, Auckland
2014 New Works, Warwick Henderson Gallery, Auckland
2012 New Works, Warwick Henderson Gallery, Auckland
2010 Portraits, Warwick Henderson Gallery,
2008 Lovebirds, Tarryn Teresa Gallery, Santa Monica, California, USA
2006 Love Lies Bleeding, Warwick Henderson Gallery, Auckland
2005 Warwick Henderson Gallery, Auckland
2004 Warwick Henderson Gallery, Auckland
2003 Warwick Henderson Gallery, Auckland
2002 Madhouse Gallery, Rotorua