Not everyone has an erotic sense of self. This may be fortunate, otherwise the supermarkets would be teeming with people sighing in the cereal aisles, swooning at the soap shelves and absentmindedly fondling the lettuce.
Yet all too often “erotic” is seen as the black sheep in the flock of fluffy non-threatening words, and its true holistic essence – a reference to a joyous personal intimacy with the world – is debased to images of soiled sheets.
“Homoerotic” was the first definition that bunny-hopped into my consciousness, upon my encounter with the portraits of Ryan Hewett’s Enlighten exhibition at the Barnard Gallery in Newlands. It was a description that proved oddly prophetic given the context of the exhibition as provided by the Gallery: “The Artist depicted in different disguises…evocations of an internal struggle.”
The 13 head portraits are all on canvas, impressive in their voluminous dignity. The force of their presence dominates the neutral spaces between each piece, rendering the gallery into a gathering of beacons from another world.
Elegant, pained and sumptuous variations on the theme of inner turmoil morphing with the external aesthetics of beauty give the ambi-gender portraits a curiously mobile intensity, akin to a blurred photo of a child on a carousel ride. Secret glyphs and half symbol patterns splash color trails across the wide eyed, petulant lipped faces of the Enlightened.
Energetic with a vigorous, almost defiant, vitality, Ryan Hewett’s new works are a visual triumph of self realization.
Ryan Hewett’s Enlighten runs at the Barnard Gallery from 3 September to 14 October 2014.