Painted Rococo Remixes Ooze Sex and the Big Bad Wolf

In One Ear & Out the Other, 2017, One of a Kind Ultrachrome, Acrylic Medium on Canvas, 48 x 40. Images courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House

Falling somewhere between rococo and 18th century portraiture are the bombastic, wondrous digital paintings of English artist Ray Caesar. The snapshots in Caesar’s new Tainted exhibition don’t exist in a traditional time or place in history—the artist creates a unique mythical locale that borrows a selection of classical era aesthetics and accoutrements. His portraits are sensual yet sinister, sort of like Fuco Ueda’s surrealist compositions, but one could argue that Caesar’s work is a little more explicitly sexual. His subjects almost exclusively feature females in various states of seduction, the object of their eyes being the occasional anthropomorphous wolf. 

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Tainted by the Sea, 2017, One of a Kind Ultrachrome, Acrylic Medium on Canvas 24 x 30

The characters in Tainted appear to be intentionally incongruous in that they aren’t portrayed anatomically to scale. Like Troy Brooks’ surrealist caricatures, Caesar’s girls are drawn with disproportionately shaped bodies that resemble an even more exaggerated rococo form. Caesar’s compositions reflect a fascination with seduction, beauty instruments used in beauty rituals, and the theme of the sea. Caesar associates the mysterious and uncontrollable nature of the ocean with the unconscious mind. The artist writes that the, “unconscious is more truthful and honest and tainted than we think…deep desires and secrets we hide even from ourselves and the nature of art to communicate hidden aspects of self.”

La Chasse, 2011, 48 x 48, Digital Ultrachrome on Archival Paper

Each scene, in fact, is based on a memories or experiences from his life. In One Ear and Out The Other (top), for example, is “about listening to the subconscious part of our mind where reason, meaning and self-absorption can overwhelm intuition and feeling. It’s about how narcissists create a vacuum in their own world. My father is referenced in this piece as a narcissist, and to some degree so is the world of Trumpian politics. The girl is his muse but he can’t hear her because he is too self- absorbed. The work is drawing a parallel from a dialogue of our personal subconscious to the global or collective subconscious of our species.”

 The Forgotten, 2013, 40 x 30, Digital Ultrachrome on Archival Paper

Red Wolf, 2017, 24 x 24, Ultrachrome, Acrylic Medium on Wood Panel, One of a Kind

Words of Wisdom, 2011, 40 x 24, Digital Ultrachrome on Archival Paper

Arabesque, 2010, 40 x 30, Digital Ultrachrome on Archival Paper

Ray Caesar’s solo exhibition, Tainted, is on at the Gallery House in Toronto from January 28th to February 22nd. Click here for information about the show, and check out more of his work on his website.  


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