Home Arts All eyes are on you

All eyes are on you

by Archives October 21, 2008

Seductive, brash, shocked and pleased. The eyes on display at Karine Bassal’s first solo exhibition Attitudes at MosaikArt Gallery are looking right at you. The Montreal-based artist has explored the female gaze through a series of beguiling and powerful portraits of intimate, anonymous female eyes.
“In a portrait, you have to get the eyes right,” said Bassal, at her opening night vernissage. People’s eyes have always intrigued her, and for Bassal, they are the most important feature.
Edouard Manet’s Olympia, the famous nude portrait of a recognizable Paris prostitute, served as inspiration for the artist. Unlike the demure maidens in reclining nude portraits of the past, Olympia returns the viewer’s gaze. “Who is doing the looking?” asks Bassal.
In her work, Bassal uses the empowering allure of the female gaze. “It’s a feminist approach. Women are typically objectified. But this is repossessing the female gaze,” she said. With all these eyes on you, walking around the small MosiakArt gallery is imposing, even intimidating. Still, there is a sense of mutual attraction.
Bassal works from photographs. Each portrait takes on a different quality: some are overexposed, some are realistic, others have different textures and unnatural colours.
In each, you are free to imagine what each woman was doing at the moment the shutter clicked. What was she thinking? Is she trying to charm, seduce or challenge the viewer? Each portrait is subjective.
“People have different perspectives,” said Bassal.
In interpreting “M. Exhibition” a portrait of an exotic brown eyed girl, the woman’s deft gaze has a reassured, yet coy allure, as if she’s withholding information from her viewer.
Even more enigmatic are Bassal’s magnified iris paintings. Out of the exhibit’s context, you might be hard-pressed to identify what you’re seeing. They shroud the emotion and particularities of their owner, and yet point to a beauty shared by all eyes.
Bassal’s earlier work, images taken from magazine ads of models, had a balmier aesthetic. Her recent work is much more real and personal.
The paintings in Attitudes are shockingly realistic. It proves: eyes are truly the windows to the soul, as long as you gaze back.

Karine Bassal’s Attitudes runs at MosaikArt Gallery (4897 St-Laurent, corner St-Joseph)until Oct. 28. Call 514-849-3399 for opening hours.

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