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Sarah Slappey’s debut European solo show “Tenderizer” opens today in Zurich at Galerie Maria Bernheim. On view through October 31, it features seven new large-scale oil paintings and a selection of works on paper displaying the artist’s signature corporeal landscapes, centered around almost unrecognizable yet sexually-charged subjects.
Walking the line between sensual and repulsive, the works on view follow Slappey’s rejection of the human form as a noble art subject through surreal depictions of the body that suggest an alternate world where a sexualized male gaze has been overcome. Slappey proposes a universe where the female form is only portrayed by those who possess it.
The outcome is a series of provocative figurations that entrance the viewer with their tangled, abstracted forms like elongated arms, legs, fingers, and breasts. The bodies have been intermingled in different scenarios denoted by elements like marble, pearls, chain link, and clouds—seen in paintings like the bondage-suggestive Tied Up II. Also on view are works like Lipstick Landscape, in which appendages have been covered with blood-red markings; and a collection of hands emerging from folds of dark green fabric and satiny ribbon, littered with safety pins, entitled Pink Ribbon.
Impeccably rendered using seamless, silky brush strokes, Slappey’s work concurrently rejects and embraces contemporary ideas of figuration as a means of regaining control of the depicted female body. Approaching the real-life body from a dreamlike stance with an added humorous twist, the artist works with the intention of removing feminine shame from the nude figure, fueled by an acknowledgment of her own body.