Emergent British painter Georgina Clapham, born Somerset, England, 1993 conspicuously engages with story telling and theatricality, drawing together Renaissance portraiture, Greek Mythology, folklore, mysticism, animals, nature, the artificial, high fashion, subculture, gender, identity and sexuality, in her meticulous life size figurative paintings.
Through the traditional media of oil paint on linen and intaglio printmaking, she creates her own contemporary mythologies, reworked from archetypal narratives in Greek Mythology and European Folklore, such as the original moral tales collated by the Brothers Grimm; in doing so she tries to find a balance between beauty and the grotesque. Her paintings operate as portraits and as tableau, referring to conventional Old Master compositions of the early modern European period, principally of nobility or elevated mythological subjects she substitutes past historical symbolism with contemporary fashion, costume and subcultural elements, drawing the viewer into the present in the hope that ‘such anachronism might filter our impression of the past or emphasize the difference in dialogue between old and new.’ Staging her paintings using people in her everyday life, she infuses these timeless narratives with the intimacy and tangibility of her friendships and personal relationships drawing out their psychology and sexuality; as such, the works become as much a depiction of her own imagined narrative as of the individuals’ personality.
The illusory atmosphere created through the careful depiction of fine jewellery, luxurious fabrics and furs is a skill that is hard won, Clapham handles the paint with confidence shifting between naturalism, artifice and heightened drama, echoing tropes of sixteenth and seventeenth century European portraitists from Giovanni Battista Moroni to Thomas Gainsborough and his ‘Swagger Portraits.’ Of this she says: ‘I see my work as partly a comment on the delight of painting and an exploration of materiality. I have employed techniques that refer directly to the history of oil painting such as the support, building up in very fine layers of glaze, but there are also things that I have now set aside; I use impasto more liberally, glitter, juxtaposing traditional pigments with synthetic ones and iridescent paints, making textural objects. As long as these different languages lend themselves to the conceptual intentions of the work I have embraced them.’