When entering the up and coming, South African artist, Reece Swanepoel’s exhibition, one is confronted by an array of portraits. These faces do not entail your usual day-to-day characters but rather individuals, morphed by stimuli and illustrated by their ugliness.
These individuals provoke viewers through a grotesquely antagonistic manner, forcing each and every one to confront the emotion and realisation of empathy head-on. These characters do not conform to society, but rather focus our attention on the misfits that society chooses to push to the boarders and ignore based on social prejudice or the lack thereof in accompanying social norms. They are ugly in the sense, that they do not represent what is ideally accepted in terms of social constructs. Regarding them as unimportant and unworthy in being part of society.
This body of work reminds us that each individual is different, some are fragmented, and others are whole, in the sense of being what they are and accepting that they are outcasts. The use of ugliness, hybrid forms and emotional distortion is suggestive of the disgust and discomfort from those that view them. None the less, these individuals evoke empathy and authenticity for what it means to be human in a seemingly inhumane world. Conveying “the need for a humanity that is both progressive and empathic”.
The artist’s use of uncontroversial portraiture techniques, such as distortion, hybridity, and his bold use of raw expression, gives way to the reflection of an underlying and deeply rooted emotive drive throughout each artwork. This passionate display of the criticism against the human condition links with the expressionistic style of artists such as Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele and Francis Bacon. By actively engaging in this profound exhibition, participating viewers gain some degree of insight, a unique glimpse into what the artist himself experienced whilst creating these macabre characters - by constructing a dialogue between what is perceived and what can and evidently will be realised through the conjuring of empathy.
Each individual represented in this exhibition is [a] misfit in their own right in accordance with society’s ignorance. As a whole however, these individuals form a party of castaways, a strange family of sorts, a company of loners united by their juxta positioning, conveying a sense of safety and security – a home. Unpretty Outcasts is a critical commentary on how society perceives and rejects those that are misfit to societal, cultural and racial blueprints. It is a confrontation of emotion and comprehension, where these Unpretty individuals offer a driving effect in how we as humans perceive each other and in turn influence the humanity of the world.