Exposed; More Than Meets the Eye

By Jo Phillips

EXPOSED-colbert-1Benefit Supervisor Sleeping, 2017, cortex steel, LCD screens, moving image, 132 x 265 x 80cm.

There’s a reason why most people don’t usually show off their passport photos. The no-smiling policy, ears on show and mug-shot angle aren’t meant to flatter one’s best features. As an ever so popular art form, portraiture has taken on many media and styles to highlight certain traits of the subject in the name of power, wealth, beauty, etc. Beyond the meticulous compositions, and sometimes unrealistic retouching, there’s an artist and his subject (and even another artist, at times). To contextualise this in the here and now, Charlotte Colbert has reworked Sue Tilley’s portrait by Lucian Freud, in her moving-image installation to intensify the gaze during their rendezvous.

The original painting featured in Charlotte Colbert’s anthropomorphic series is called “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” (1995), a nude portrait of Susan Tilley lying on a couch with a certain discomfort, by Lucian Freud. By day she worked as a job centre supervisor, by night she was the heart of the party, and memorably Susan was Lucian Freud’s muse behind the £35.8 million pound artwork. On an interesting encounter through a friend, Leigh Bowery, met the artist who will put her on the map as his “Fat Sue”. Little did Lucian Freud know at that time he would embark on his 4-year career hiatus, through his signature extensive examination process. Susan was a believer in body positivity, happily comfortable in her own skin and unapologetically in tune with her couch loving side. After hours and months of observation and hard work, friendship and laughter, Freud’s realism undeniably reflects great authenticity down to all her curves and edges, folds and expressions.

This fixating yet observant aspect of Lucian’s style doesn’t go unnoticed, of course. As a moving-image sculptor, Charlotte Colbert is on a mission to shed some light on the fruitful encounter between Freud and Tilley, to explore and extend the relationship between an artist and his subject. Scattered among her rusted corten steel screens, the black and white footage of Susan’s body is edited to showcase details and textures to put forward the obervational, self-reflecting notion of the unspoken chemistry.  An exchange controlled by the subject, a twist on the “traditional” male gaze. Exhibiting at the same studio where Sue and Lucian worked together, the mix-media artist embraces every little trace left behind by the duo – even the contextual floorboards that were once the accidental canvas to the splattered paint from executing Sue’s portrait.

Perhaps there’s no better timing for Colbert to display this piece – between Susan’s recent illustration collaboration with Fendi and the media’s struggle to maintain “body ideals”, the iconic personality is once again celebrated. Articles on Susan Tilley may be over-flowing right now, but above all her triumph doesn’t reside in the written realm, but in the given fact that she’s an inspiration in the artistic world. As Charlotte Colbert‘s intention is to immortalise the gaze shared between both parties via a new medium, she adds a layer of depth only time and technology can bring to the piece.

Press information

Duration: 24 Jan – 18 Feb 2018

Address: UNIT9, The Huntingdon Estate, Erbor Street, London, E1 6A.

If you’re interested in reinterpreted art, it’s worth looking into the following pieces:

Fernando Botero’s take on the ‘Mona Lisa‘ by Leonardo Da Vinci (1517):

EXPOSED-DaVinci-Botero‘Mona Lisa’ by Fernando Botero (1978).

David LaChapelle’s take on the ‘Last Supper‘ by Leonardo Da Vinci (14980):

david-lachapelle-alex‘Last Supper’ by David LaChapelle (2003).

Deborah Kass’ take on ‘Liz‘ by Andy Warhol (1965):

deborah_kass_yellow_deb_1024x768‘Yellow Deb’ by Deborah Kass (2012).


To read our last article on Charlotte Colbert’s work, click here.

To find out more about her work, click here.


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