Project Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Sarah Letovsky running concurrently with ‘Making Mud with Milk’ by Rebecca Ladds.
Letovsky takes inspiration from the tradition of figurative painting and the female subject as muse, with a painting language wholly her own – in which flesh, faces and background invite a play between subject, brushstroke, and the physical process of painting.
In this series of work, Letovsky’s reverence for the portrait evolves to encompass more of the figure and spatial context; in doing so, evoking a sense of intimacy, hinting at spaces of belonging and familiarity such as bedrooms and living rooms. The paintings are reminiscent of selfies; a camera is never directly featured but implied, and raises questions about who the image is for, and by. The work invites the viewer to consider the self-photograph as a contradiction and an equilibrium in which the private becomes public, a work of both intimacy and exhibitionism.
The title of the show is a reference to Pablo Neruda’s poem of the same name, in which Neruda describes the quintessential female muse – still and silent, an object of desire set apart to gaze upon:
I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,
and you hear me from far away and my voice does not
It seems as though your eyes had flown away
and it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth.
Letovsky’s subjects challenge this narrative; they are both confrontational and inviting, a director in their own representation. Their image is a performance, and we are invited to view the subject and their body through a negotiation of the self. It also invites us to consider the particularly gendered discussion of self-documentation. As Anne Burns discusses in Self(ie)-Discipline, “the gendering of selfies and the prevalent assumption that they act as proof of narcissism limit how women’s personal photography is socially valued… selfishness is a particularly barbed insult when directed at women, as it references the subject’s transgression of the norm of feminine self-sacrifice”.
Letovsky also takes inspiration from her love of prose and poetry, in particular, stories of the interior lives of women and girls, and their private narratives of love, joy, anger, grief, self-pity, and insecurity operating beneath the surface. In these paintings, Letovsky’s subjects are caught in an ambiguous and mundane moment; they seem observant, sexual, uncertain, and sometimes indifferent or bored – belying a rich interior complexity.
Sarah Letovsky lives and works in Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of King’s College in Halifax in 2009 where she studied literature and film. She completed her BFA at OCAD University in 2014 in Drawing and Painting and was the recipient of the Mrs. W.O. Forsyth Award for Excellence in Painting. Her first solo exhibition with Project Gallery, Girls Girls Girls, opened in 2016. Most recently Letovsky exhibited in the group show “Today’s Paper” at Angell Gallery in Toronto.