Rowan University Art Gallery

Private Lives

Private Lives pairs two artists: the painter Nuno de Campos and the photographer Magali Nougarède. These two contemporary artists create portraits of women based on the body: its pose, gesture, and unconscious language of expression. Their paintings and photographs delve past the exterior world of the visible to uncover the hidden, private and personal spaces of the self. Their creative use of cropping, iconic focus on the mid-section, and lack of any recognizable background space places their subjects in a tightly controlled, very intimate position where attention is solely paid to the body. In terms of visualizing women in art, this convention is hardly new, but De Campos and Nougarède are not interested in gratifying sexual images. They are looking towards the female body to explore aging, gender roles, psychological insight, socially proscribed roles, and a general social/political inquiry. Their singular spotlight on the torso pulls the viewer into their subject's private sphere while, at the same time, keeping the observer at a distance by presenting the body as a blockade to any further narrative probing. Without the pervasive and easy recognition of their subject's facial features, both de Campos and Nougarède display their models expressive body postures in conjunction with various objects such as purses and penknives. Through the eyes of these two artists, ordinary private musings as well as quiet moments become extraordinary and weighted with hidden agendas and emotional subtext.

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Nuno de Campos displays extraordinary technique and skill in his intimate tempera paintings and charcoal drawings. In choosing to display the female lap, he presents an area that has always been the focal point of varying emotions: love, nurturing, power, and obedience, to name a few. His figures, for the most part, are not passive in their respective poses. They convey a wealth of feeling and introspection without becoming sentimental. Each image pairs its female with some sort of object or emblem: a tiny Swiss army knife, toy truck, record album, or t-shirt emblazoned with the popular revolutionary Che Guevara. The intertwined strains of body language and object combine to create a psychologically charged atmosphere filtered through a truncated female form.

Magali Nougarède searches out her subjects close to home, in seaside towns in the South Coast of England where she now lives. The Toeing the Line and Crossing the Line series deals with women who are at different, yet transitional times in life. Like Nuno de Campos, this artist is interested in drawing out the exotic that lies beneath the ordinary. By concentrating on elderly women and children, the artist meditates on how women function and are socialized within society. Her richly toned, theatrically lit, and painterly photographs of older women show a wellspring of reserve in her subjects. They also illuminate a sense of expectation as her subjects stand in the bright light wearing their best clothes for a walk by the sea.