Cherry Hood

ARTnews, May 2002
Jonathan Turner
ARTnews, New York, International Reviews
Mori Gallery, Sydney, Australia

In an unsettling row of bill-board-scaled images, seven angelic children stare at the spectator with piercing gazes. Their eyes are all on the same level. Shown as a series of floating head-and-shoulders, they are all boys, although this is not immediately obvious. Despite their blonde, blue-eyed perfection, they appear awkward, sullen and unshielded. It is almost as though the seven deadly sins are lurking just beneath the skin of these vast canvases, coated in layers of watercolour and oil glazes.

Interface, an exhibition of portraits of idealized siblings by Australian artist Cherry Hood, questions the objectified male gaze of traditional Western art. She deliberately turns the tables in her technically brilliant paintings. Young boys with chocolate-stained lips are offered up for consumption, but something is inexplicably wrong in Hood's photo-realistic representations. Depicted in freckly paint, bruised shadows and drips of treacley varnish, the unformed physiognomy of the subjects suggests unformed personality. But these boys aren't real anyway. They are amalgams. Hood's work is the result of technology used in a cosmetic way.

Hood paints from photographs. Using a computer, she combines family snapshots with pictures of digitally enhanced fashion models and movie-stars. Her monumental portraits of fictional children are then given Christian names ? Harry, Maurice, Christopher ? as if to make them more familiar, more flesh-and-blood.

Gallery-owner Stephen Mori recognizes the disquieting nature of these hybrid portraits, which pander to our current unease with child subjects. He notes that "Cherry's previous show was raided by the police who wanted to know the source of the material."

Hood implies evil where no evil exists. The success of her chilling paintings is that they are obsessive without feeling exploitative. What at first might seem bland becomes ambiguous and sinister, almost forensic.

About Cherry Hood

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