South-African born, London based artist Lisa Brice has generously produced Untitled (After Ophelia)
, 2020, a limited edition print especially for Tate with all proceeds going to the Art Now programme. Brice has painted directly onto sheets of clear film which were then used to create lithographic printing plates. The resulting print achieves both the rich colour, and the tonal range of her paintings.
Employing a multitude of borrowed art historical references, Brice depicts strangely familiar scenes in new and often unsettling ways. Where figures might previously have been depicted as objectified nudes or damsels in distress, Brice recasts them in new situations with a sense of autonomy. Brice has discussed the significant fact that historical figuration in Western art history is, more often than not, created by white men for white men. For her, the act of a woman re-authoring an image which was previously painted by a man brings about a powerful shift in itself.
This subversion of misogynistic visual tropes from the canon of Western art history is key to Brice’s practice. The main figure in this print references the Tate Collection work, Ophelia 1851-2 by John Everett Millais. In the painting by Millais, a heartbroken Ophelia lies lifeless, having drowned in a stream. Brice has resurrected Ophelia from her watery grave and she leans nude through a brightly coloured plastic curtain used to keep mosquitoes out. Plumes of smoke billow up from the cigarette she holds nonchalantly whilst drinking a bottle of Trinidadian Stag beer (pitched in Trinidad as a ‘man’s beer’).
For Untitled (After Ophelia)
, 2020, Brice has combined the art historical with a sense of Trinidadian life.
Since 1999, when Brice first attended a workshop in Grande Riviere, and a residency in POS the following year, she has maintained strong ties with the island. Brice often references Trinidad in her work, one recurring reference being a particular shade of blue. For Brice, the colour hints at the sense of liberation experienced by those masquerading as Blue Devils during Carnival, or when revellers coat themselves with mud or paint for J’ouvert (a celebration which marks the beginning of Carnival) freeing themselves from the limitations of their own character. The blue paint is possibly made from Reckitt’s powder, which historically was used throughout the colonies of the British Empire for blueing white cloth. The powder has also been associated with skin bleaching, something that takes on particular relevance considering Brice’s connection to Trinidad where shadeism (discrimination based on degrees of skin colour) is prevalent. Brice’s use of blue interrupts easy readings of ethnicity. Blue also has a plethora of art historical associations: it is traditionally the colour of the Virgin Mary’s cloak in religious iconography; for Henri Matisse, the colour allowed him to focus intensely on the female form; and Yves Klein employed his own trademarked shade to make paintings using women as living paintbrushes. Brice’s work consistently defies straightforward interpretations; her bold and defiant characters refuse to be pinned down.
Prices of the artwork are liable to change. As a limited edition sells out, prices of the artwork are subject to increase and the price will be clearly indicated.
Untitled (After Ophelia)
87 x 37.9 cm
Lithograph on paper
Date of work
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Lisa Brice (born 1968) is a South African artist, now living and working in London. Brice cites some of her influences as her experience of growing up in South Africa during a time of political upheaval, and from her time spent living and working in Trinidad. Employing a multitude of borrowed art historical references, Brice depicts strangely familiar scenes in new and often unsettling ways. Where figures might previously have been depicted as objectified nudes or damsels in distress, Brice recasts them in new situations with a sense of autonomy. Brice has discussed the significant fact that historical figuration in Western art history is, more often than not, created by white men for white men. For her, the act of a woman re-authoring an image which was previously painted by a man brings about a powerful shift in itself.
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