Season | Rachel Coad

Season | Rachel Coad

APRIL 18 - MAY 11      

This new body of paintings, Season, by Rachel Coad taps into the threads of our collective memory. The young male subjects who gaze from the canvas have been sourced from a group photograph from the early 1900s. The scale of the original image is miniscule, the boys’ heads only millimetres high. Their charming features and earnest expressions accessible only through magnification. Once lost to obscurity, these faces are transported into the present through meticulous examination, but they are far from scaled-up reproductions. Coad casts individual souls into the spotlight, untethering them from a sea of anonymous faces. Sincere, solemn and melancholic, these paintings supersize the figure from ambiguity to certainty.

The youthful faces with Dickensian features within these works are clearly not of this time. Suspenders, cravats, and neat brass buttons are not the only clues to their origin story. The boys’ expressions proffer a streetwise poise and wisdom beyond the veil of youth. Coad describes how these subjects could not have comprehended what having their image captured meant. Had they ever seen a likeness of themselves, or held a camera? Would they have even viewed the photograph? Curiosity and apprehension are emblazoned on their faces. Pouted lips, tilted chins, stiff poses for a child’s restless limbs. Even the most patient have dreamy eyes from the fight against a slow shutter speed.

Coad’s rich yet limited palette centres attention on each subject. Sweeping washes of umbers and blues deftly beckon each face forward from a deep and moody ground. The softly rendered illusion encourages a singular moment of connection between viewer and subject to the exclusion of all distraction.

Season raises questions about the nuances of looking and seeing. A casual encounter, a quick glance, is an impossible way to experience Coad’s paintings. Standing before her works creates an intimate window into hope and vulnerability, while bearing witness to a place and person you can never have known. The experience is anything but voyeuristic, as each boy meets your eye with quiet and curious wonder. Are we recognising an individual, accessing a memory, or seeing a reflection of ourselves? Perhaps all of these perceptions come into play through the beguiling gazes that invite us in.