Angela Santana @ Saatchi Yates, London
An empowering reinterpretation of the male gaze, the new exhibition sees Santana turn her attention to the Internet and embrace it as her modern-day muse to transform the female body from object to subject. With a practice rooted in the rejection of the classical, conservative, and male-dominated industry, Santana radically disrupts traditional approaches to painting by deconstructing hundreds of layers of digital artwork and reimagining them through her large-scale oil canvases.
Working with the mass of illicit images online, the artist mirrors its vast demand in society, observing the history of the female body in the arts and its lasting influence in today’s digital age. Taking inspiration from New York female painting predecessors such as Cecily Brown, Joan Semmel, Dana Schutz, and Georgia O'Keeffe, Santana asks us to reconsider the power of the female painter, and her subjects. Her work reinterprets the subjugation of the gaze, powerfully reconfiguring her subjects into protected, and reimagined figures.
Santana notes: “by shifting the object to become the new subject, I highlight how, throughout history, images of women were often passive and pleasing”. Santana creates this very shift in her new exhibition by bringing us into a space of protected female erotic representation, that vastly contrasts passivity, and meekness.
Using a painstaking technique that sees the artist compose each artwork digitally through hundreds of layers, Santana dismantles and reinterprets each found image while allowing digital anomalies drench into her work before bringing it onto large-scale canvases in oil. Emphasising the strength and permanence of her work through the medium of oil painting, Santana’s demanding large-scale figures is an antagonist to the fleeting digital thumbnail.
Capturing the strong contrast of the sharp digital process and rigid brushstroke that combines with the organic shapes of the female body, the artist’s work is meant to be powerful rather than pleasing. Breaking tradition to question the status quo, the exhibition reimagines how we might present, witness, and digest female bodies within visual arts.