Aline Alagem’s works displayed in the exhibition Director’s cut continue her main preoccupation in recent years with the body, gender, eroticism, and with the gaze that constitutes them in the current age of a mad torrent of processed images. Alagem paints hyperrealistic paintings with a disrupted or fragmented narrative, on large scale canvases that exceed the boundaries of the painting as a window, blending beyond recognition the traditional narrative of oil painting on canvas as a coherent opening to the representation of reality. The viewer’s gaze lingers on the quality of the painting, surprised by the unconventional fusion of plasticity and refinement and the brute force with which the painting manifests itself.
The painted bodies are fragmented and duplicated, making it patently clear that here there is no visual catharsis, this is not a portrait. The painted body, which at first seems specific and personal, turns out to be general and becomes a surface (a position, a structure), and as such, a hyper-body. This feminine body – squeezed, pushed, contorted – is not only the smooth and airbrushed body of the porn actress, it is also the traditional icon of feminine representation in painting in particular and in the history of art in general.
The amalgamations created in the paintings between bodies and objects or animals remind me of the Surrealist notions of liberation from the constraints of bourgeois morality with fetishistic objects. The Surrealists invented and reintroduced techniques for circumventing the shackles of the consciousness, offering a new perspective on nudity and liberated sexuality through objects. In practice, between the lines of the Surrealist object, I am always left with a lingering waft of exploitation, an image of a naked woman in a room full of fully clothed men. Alagem’s works touch on this anti bourgeois exploitation, and on the more traditional exploitation, the one found in the history of art. The connection between objects, animals and bodies is a fetishistic, instrumental connection that exacerbates the issue of the anonymity of the sexual body.
Sometimes an eye looks back from a painting. This single eye, animalistic and wild, reflects the spectator in his real position. The spectator may mistakenly think that he is looking at an arena that is external to him, however he is the warden of this macabre prison. Alagem takes the image back to the question: what is the price of pleasure and who pays it?
The gaping mouths moan inaudible moans, opening to a dense darkness. The mouth is disabled, loses the power of expression, and the feminine icon becomes a means for one to be reflected in. In pop culture, and in porn, pleasure always entails someone (a man) taking control over it. The leading hand is always male, and it is the hand that produces the narrative. In this body of work, Aline Alagem upsets the traditional balance of power, as she introduces a new leading hand, a feminine hand, the painting hand.
Text by Dana Yoeli