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Sheila Rennick, Save Changes at Stour Space until 1st June
May 24, 2015
As part of a group exhibition called Save Changes, the portraits by Sheila Rennock are beautifully painted reproductions from profile pictures of men found on Tinder. The original profile photos are used by people to communicate success, bravado and appear attractive to prospective partners but here we see them translated through the artists keen eye. It is a novel idea executed brilliantly as the men turn into grotesque figures, staring out at us as much as we look at them.
There are contrasts here such as Leroy who is serious, proud, strong and confident in his smart suit whereas Jon (who is also in a suit) looks almost feminine with his beautifully long eyelashes and demure half smile.
Sheila Rennick, a graduate of Central St. Martins, was very active in the arts scene in Ireland and is now based in London. Her work is perceptive and witty with a hint of everyday tragedy. There is much to enjoy in this exhibition as we view these profile pictures (which due to social media, we are used to seeing every day) through her eyes.
There is much humour and pathos to the paintings; Tinder King poses proudly with a drugged out tiger which has become a bit of a hackneyed (pun intended) online trope for profile pictures. However Rennick does not go for the easy and one dimensional option of simply making fun of the men, she manages to show their humanity and clearly admires them. She enjoys some of the machismo whilst at the same time sending it up, without taking away their dignity. Because these are paintings rather than profile photos, each detail is important and brought into the foreground in a way that on Tinder is probably only picked up subconsciously if at all as people manically flick to the left or right. The more time you spend contemplating each piece the more you start to notice revealing details. Each portrait captures the subjects projected personality but with the less authentic ones, the painting highlights their incongruence.
Hair Dresser and Ibiza Ian show their swag in different ways. Hair Dresser looks at us seductively in a soft shirt and manages to be sensitive and masculine whilst Ibiza Ian smokes poolside in his sunglasses and swimming trunks trying his best to look cool and aloof. Where possible, Rennick captures their personalities such as the warmly rendered Lewis. With a slightly weathered face but with a cheeky grin and a few tattoos, Lewis is very much looking at us invitingly. Lewis’ background is equally interesting as he stands with trees all around and lots of green but framed by a magical pink border with hearts. Then there are posers such Trevor who seems to be hiding behind sunglasses much like Roy In The Sun (and Ibiza Ian) who reveals nothing about himself as he sips a cocktail from a straw in a pool, him being on holiday and consuming a drink being enough to hopefully attract someone.
One of the most striking images in the exhibition is called L is For…
A man in a bathroom with his top off revealing a chiselled torso and Calvin Klein boxer shorts on display (much like an advert from the 90s) stares out to us. The so-called glamour is undercut as he is holds a can of Lynx and by his face looks to be in his 40s with a receding hairline. It is a brutal juxtaposition and very modern (with a nod to Warhol in the use of well-known brands). It is funny and sad, much like a lot of her work.
The exhibition also has works by two other artists; Paula Varjack explores profiling using experiences on another dating app, Happn where you can only connect with people in close proximity. She shares her experiences through various media including actual mobiles phones. Bettina John explores identity through various alter egos which she has created, one of which will be launching an album during the exhibition.
Save Changes runs until June 1st at Stour Space, 7 Roach Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3 2PA. For more information go to www.stourspace.co.uk/portfolio/may-2015.