Exhibition open from 1st till March 2019
A series of small and medium scale paintings portraying figures as a main subject will make up Johanna Barthet’s first solo exhibition that is being held in the month of March 2019 at Palazzo De Piro in Mdina, a venue that served as a platform for various successful exhibitions as well as first solo exhibitions for other local artists.
Collectively titled “stories|untold” the enigmatic figures depicted allow for an abundance of mystery waiting to be discovered by each and every painting. More often than not, the subject is a woman, and moreover, these females tend to be the artist’s self-portraits in disguise. Although figures are the main subject, it is their psychological state that takes centre stage. Johanna Barthet dreams up stories for her emotionally-charged characters that are only partially revealed in the paintings, leaving one’s imagination to wander.
There appear to be contrasts in how these females are being projected in the series; perhaps revealing a dichotomy in the artist’s own conduct. These sometimes innocent and sometimes iniquitous ladies will remain etched in one’s memory. They can be diffident or sensual, even seemingly disturbed and onerous. They are demure in their stance or brazenly look fixedly at the spectator, not awaiting judgement but begging to tell their individual story. They are raw and fluid in their execution with Barthet having taken advantage of the panel as support. The figures are set against simple backgrounds, with the main focus falling on the individuals and their emotion, outfits, gesture and palette.
Executed largely in oils on panel, the outlandish figures are a culmination of much experimentation, especially those that took place in the last twelve years when Barthet has attended several short courses. Ever since she was a child, Barthet would sketch and inevitably find herself portraying a young girl with straight hair and a fringe that inexplicably was a version of her own self.
The main inspiration is thus herself, but also people and the boundless narratives they could tell. Johanna Barthet’s style may seem reminiscent of the late 19th- and early 20th-century art of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Amedeo Modigliani. Barthet is a great admirer of both these artists’ work but she does not slavishly replicate the style of either. Nonetheless, the focus on the female and portrayal of the self harks back to Paula Modersohn Becker an artist active at the turn of the 20th century who died young but who was an early propagator of Expressionism.
Stories|untold is curated by Dr Charlene Vella and will open on Friday 1 March 2019
1st March – 31st February