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My favourite dancer / 2018

Oil on linen 122 x 134 cm / 48 x 53 inches

Onstage


The raw and quivering paintings of Anton Piche, crusted with his handmade oil paint, draw us into the fearful privacy of his studio. Unmistakable studio residue pulls us behind the scenes: masking tape on the floor marks the position of innumerable forgotten models who came before; sagging old couches hold the dirtied imprint of their bodies; discarded plastic chairs and scattered tea cups whisper poverty and renunciation of material ambitions. Yet though stripped of luxuries, this studio is evidently far more than a functional workspace; it is a place where souls are bared even as clothing is shed, where late-night encounters tremble at the boundaries of intimacy. The unglamorous markers of studio life can’t disguise that some profound conversion takes place when Piche grinds his paints. These incidental furnishings dissolve in the tension between painter and model.


Piche paints women—luscious, sensual women. He feasts upon their curves, the curls of their lips, the maddening pivot of their ankles, the inviting smoothness of their inner thighs. But he paints women who know that they are watched, who know that every aspect of womanhood is a performance, who look back with their very bodies if not with their proud gazes. Some alchemy happens when he lights them dramatically from below, transforming the rugged studio into a tiny theatre, a stage, inviting them to perform. Shoulders jut forward, legs part.


And out steps Woman in the Summer of life. She turns her shadowed but unwavering look upon us, her smoky, knowing eyes wet with perspicacious tears. Piche throws theatrical light into her glowing skin, thrusting paint at her with a virile roughness, sculpting her with gutsy smears of opaque colour. Her bloodied lips bite back, dewy with unspeakable things and with all the withheld secret pain of womanhood. He wipes back paint at her hairline, pulling her hair taught and letting it gleam with the exposed texture of the linen. He scrapes and scratches the chalky paint, subduing her in pasty neutrals. And in the soft morning light she keeps her composure even as he tries to dissolve her in delicate pastels. She fights back with her very posture, her sprawled legs and cocked head saying, ‘I will use against you the one thing I have: my ripe body.’


For Piche paints not models, but queenly figures. He looks through the sensual body to the person, but that person is all women. In the seclusion of the studio, the air electric with the unpredictability of each encounter, he unleashes the thinking, feeling being who is prisoner to those desirable curves. And it is not her sadness that he sees and bares to us. That would be too weak. He sees her defiance: that it takes limitless strength and endurance to be a woman, to step out into the theatre of every new day, to assume that provocative poise, ‘to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet’ (T. S. Eliot).

Samantha Groenestyn