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Portraits - 2010

A talented artist who began her career as a sixteen year old with sell-out shows, Rozi Demant has developed a style which has become her signature; long legged, svel ...

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A talented artist who began her career as a sixteen year old with sell-out shows, Rozi Demant has developed a style which has become her signature; long legged, svelte, nubile girls acting out scenes set in fantastic and surreal landscapes. This style has earned her a loyal following from both collectors and artists alike; however her much anticipated series of new work displays a striking development.

Rozi was initially influenced by the Pop Surrealists movement and artists such as Magritte, Picasso and Dali, who Demant regards as inspiration for her work. Demant has established herself in the Pop Surrealist genre, with her beautifully painted fantastic landscapes and stylized figures that play out elaborate fantasies.

Rozi’s latest exhibition revisits some of the elements she is known for, however they are far less stylized than her previous figurative works. These are large scale, monumental self portraits which are strikingly confidant in their subject matter and style. Demant still employs symbols in her work such as birds, cages and flowers to act out the inner emotions of the figures, yet here this symbolism is more subtle, while the focus becomes the self portrait. Although this series is a move away from her previous work, the elements of surrealism remain but with a significant increase in scale.

There are two spectacular major works of the six paintings Flight and Lilies.

One of the two major works in the series, Flight, is a large scale painting that stands almost two metres tall. The central figure sits holding an empty cage, while the chain from the cage trails from her mouth, an element reminiscent of some of her previous work. The lower half of the body is draped in exquisitely painted gold fabric, with a delicate glossy sheen. She has painted a hand, blurred from releasing a vulture that flies above her. By capturing the action of releasing the bird, she creates an interesting juxtaposition with the classical still pose of the figure and the almost photographic movement of the bird in flight. The sitter’s emotional attachment is also captured in the moment of the bird’s release to freedom.

Lilies in contrast is a triumph of contrasts where the vast difference on scale of the portraits serves to emphasis the impact and beauty of the images.

Releasing the Vultures depicts a central figure with arms outstretched, a cage in one hand with a procession from the right to the left side of the canvas of small vultures as they leave the cage and take flight.

In Torment, a nude figure, seated with her legs crossed to the side, looks up to seven eagles flying above her head. White roses in her hair are her only adornment. She clutches her chest, is she prey or being hunted? This work is reminiscent of Goya’s haunting etching, ‘The Sleep of Reason’. The painting is full of foreboding and menace, perhaps a personal torment or anxiety being played out.

Love Bird with Vulture is the onlytondo portrait. Here the figure appears bound by her wrists with a pink, bowed ribbon. Her only other adornments are the white roses in her hair. She is bathed in soft light and framed by a Love Bird and Vulture flying on either side of her. The work is beautifully painted brimming with femininity and delicacy while the viewer disconcertingly becomes the voyeur on this scene which refers to the emotional captivity in the work.

Head in a cage is one of the most intriguing paintings in the exhibition. Here we see the figure standing from the waist up, gazing at a head, her mirror image, which she hold, perched inside a round cage. The expression on both faces is sombre and passive; both figures are inspecting the other reminiscent of a specimen in a cage. This painting is also a metaphor for the process of self examination that comes from painting self portraiture. Demants work perhaps also has connections to Freda Kahlo, similarly using surreal elements to explore self portraiture and inner emotions.

Demant is truly an enquiring painter. This series of sumptuously painted works combine a very personal exploration of the self, illustrating an inner landscape of emotions demonstrated by surreal and sombre symbolism. It is not to be missed.

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Level 1, 255 Broadway, Newmarket, Auckland (Up the escalator by Paper Plus) All Correspondence to PO Box 37602, Parnell Auckland.

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