In a contrasting dialogue between subject and painting, Natasha Michaels explores conventions in classical subjects from the history of art. Young Woman With Dog, Proxy, references Portrait of a Young Woman by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The artist writes, ‘I wondered for whom she was being painted and who she had become through years of being looked at. She is so well known as a painting but as a person she is invisible.’
At once subverting and celebrating, she uses her own expressive language to recast and direct the sitters, reimagining them as fictional characters. These subjects often appear uncomfortable or perplexed as Michaels plays with ideas of power, gender and artifice – directing the viewer to consider status. Part old masters, part cartoons, the works hint at contemporary notions of importance and beauty such as celebrity, social media filters and cosmetic procedures. The subjects often appear, to themselves as well as the viewer, uncertain of their identity and context.
Natasha Michaels studied at the Royal College of Art 1994-1996 and St Martins School of Art 1989-1992. She was recently awarded the Jealous Prize 2021.