U at The Unit
In the heart of Soho, The Unit London presents U: an exhibition of contemporary portraiture under the theme of identity in an era of digital media. The show brings together the work of six extraordinarily talented artists.
“We experience things through screens, we exist as online profiles that determine ‘who we are’, we communicate in edited text, or even superficial, filtered images of what we are eating, wearing or doing” says Joe Kennedy, the gallery’s co-founder. In an ever-increasing age of digital media, from social media sites to the use of Photoshop we are altering the perception of our own identity and the identity of others. And as we continue to produce artificial concepts of our self and manipulate the very things that make us unique what exactly happens to our psyche? Does this digital age of social media enhance our ability to truly convey and self-express or crush our capacity for human intimacy and individuality? This very beautiful, captivating exhibition strives to provoke these very grave questions.
Artists Ivan Alifan, Mark Demsteader, Ryan Hewett, SNIK, Henrik Uldalen and Jake Wood-Evans exhibit their work, each one offering a unique expression though all feature contorted, concealed or ravaged images of one’s ego.
Hewett’s visionary, urban style storms with anger. Bold, thick brush strokes burn into features creating faceless, featureless profiles. While Demsteader invites us to engage in his work emotionally, not literally, so as to enrich and delve us deeper into our real identity. Ethereal paintings of women embracing themselves, knees bent, head rested, face beautiful, eyes hidden and sad, ask us to question our happiness and increasing isolation as we conceal ourselves behind social media sites. A black and white portrait posing two scars – one on the girl’s cheek the other on her elbow – unbolts our desire to hide what we perceive to be our faults either in personality or physically, and question why we are afraid to show our imperfections.
Wood-Evans combines classical references with a contemporary style; renaissance style portraits with features melting away, obscured as if by a faulty camera lens, give a sense of one’s own fading identity. But it is the grand painting Melt that truly captivates: it hangs majestically on the back wall begging everyone to admire its haunting beauty. We are portraying ourselves as angels, and so we melt; it beckons.
A deeply psychological insight into our contemporary society of fractured and digitised identity, this exhibition is both thought-provoking and startlingly stunning. I challenge anyone to visit and not question his or her own being in today’s world.
U is at The Unit London from 19th September until 18th October 2014, for further information visit here.