‘For life be, after all, only a waitin’ for somethin’ else than what we’re doin’; and death be all that we can rightly depend on.’ Bram Stoker, Dracula.
For over ten years artist Hugh Mendes has been producing portraits of recently deceased celebrities, from singer Amy Winehouse to art critic Brian Sewell, using newspaper cuttings as his inspiration.
Through this quest to create a glittering gallery of memento mori for the stars, the artist gives a permanency to the ephemeral and pays homage to the individual in the public eye who has passed away. In the process somehow cheating both the grim reaper and the fickleness of media attention.
This time for his new show at CHARLIE SMITH LONDON Mendes has chosen to present a series of obituary portraits of iconic artists, using their own self-portrait work as inspiration, including Picasso, Goya, Van Gogh, Khalo, Schiele and Matisse.
Maybe there is a contradiction in painting obituaries of artists whose self-portraits we are often so familiar with, such as Van Gogh and Khalo's, that their creator and their likeness have long ago achieved immortality of some kind ,not just in our museums and galleries but also in popular culture.
But Mendes’ paintings manage to capture with great skills the style, personality and energy of each artist. His portraits of Frida Khalo, Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh especially are starkly beautiful and strangely moving.
It is quite an amazing and sometimes unsettling experience to see all these artists unflinchingly staring back at us as we gawp at their portrait in the main room of the gallery.
This show is an appealing mix of the historical and the contemporary and it will make you wonder how the painters themselves felt and what was happening in their lives when they created the original self-portraits that inspired Mendes.
‘Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter’s soul’ Vincent Van Gogh.
Autorretrato is on until 13th October 2018 at CHARLIE SMITH LONDON.