Allegory of the Painted Woman

 publication accompanying  the performance by Alexis Blake,2012-2018



Allegory of the Painted Woman is an emphatically visual testimony to, and reflection on the gestures of women in painting, of painted women, of women as paintings. It is an open work that unfolds as a network of processes of looking, re-drawing, abstracting, translating, re-embodying, and animates a strangely familiar archive. A group of silent figures - Salome, Lucretia, Judith, Leda, Mary Magdalene, Venus, Cleopatra, Diana, the allegories of Spring, Victory or Justice and their gestures, form a stratum within our individual histories of looking.

Allegory of the Painted Woman sets in motion the history of painted women by taking a step back, by abstracting and taking a critical distance, so we can have an access to another view, to another visibility of the weight of a gesture. And simultaneously, it gives the silent crowd of these women a body, a breath, a rhythm, and a voice, a power to pronounce their own names.

This performative re-embodiment is an invitation to us - situated in the present - to look closely at the petrifying stillness of the pose suspended on a double plane – in painting and in the depth of time. We are now looking at the gestures performed so as to resist and question the implicit violence of a certain history of making bodies into images, which equates women with models to be painted; a history that rests on the anonymity of models giving their bodies to allegorical figurations of ideas of justice, victory, or love. For Aby Warburg the nymph or the female figure in motion, was precisely the figure of motion, a “neurosis in painting.”1 Perhaps Allegory of the Painted Woman summons this figure in its multiform pose, as a body that cannot quite be fixed to its gesture.

May, 2018

1Barbara Baert, Wind. On the Origin of Emotion, (Iconology research group, University of Leuven 350 copies, 2012), p. 64