November 19 - December 19, 2020
Almine Rech is pleased to announce Imaginary Friends, Genieve Figgis’ fifth solo exhibition with the gallery since 2015 and second presentation in London, featuring a selection of never-before-seen paintings.
Humans are resolutely social animals. Yet it takes an unprecedented global pandemic—with its attendant dictates to keep our distance from others—for us to acknowledge our primordial need for group belonging. Whether school classes, social clubs, worker’s unions, circles of friends, crowds at the bar, or the momentary communion of a dinner party, our collective affiliations are integral for the formation of group identification, generating our sense of security and social power. Sigmund Freud defined the social masses as “temporary entities consisting of heterogeneous elements that have joined together for a moment.” Forced into social isolation as part of urgent public health strictures, we mourn the loss of this feeling part of the mass, we are wistful for the days when we could count on safety in numbers, and we long for an identity that is completed by our friends—whether real or imagined. As Oscar Wilde wrote in De Profondis—his poetic lamentation of his fall from grace, composed in solitary confinement at Reading Gaol, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
Genieve Figgis‘ paintings share a similar dramatic bent as some Irish-English literature subjects from Edgar Allan Poe to Oscar Wilde, as well as acknowledged Old Masters such as Goya. Her scenes depicting bourgeois homes, traditional portraits, or landscapes are often haunted by spectral figures and leering creatures with canes and top hats. A sense of the charmingly macabre emerges from Figgis’ combination of an apparent pictorial banality with dreamlike qualities.