p o r t r a i t s
In an attempt to present ourselves as original and one-of-a-kind, we have adopted all-embracing visual tools for self presentation; we have imprisoned ourselves in the need to observe, normalise, and be noticed. Through this, a consciousness that cannot be escaped was created - that of permanent visibility in which we are actors and consumable products. The socially constructed necessity to stand out has turned our gaze to those who have successfully done so in the past and made us blindly follow their footsteps, slowly erasing that which is real in ourselves and creating broken identities that signal - above anything else - the need to be loved.
Michael Pettet's Portraits is a series of digital paintings still in the making. The works offer contemporary social criticism on self love, superficial personalities, digital narcissism, and inflated self-views which in large part are grounded in internet and social media and the exposure they so easily provide. His works focus on human faces that had been digitally merged to form single units - they show a world that is incredibly familiar yet remains anonymous. The artist explores a vast individual space inside all of us through the idea of being trapped - in our minds, preconceptions of beauty, shameless self-promotion. Hints of cities, walls, mountains that have no time nor space assigned to them can be seen in the backgrounds of multiple works on display - we are not to escape these walls that we build around ourselves, an idea also expressed through the technical uniformity of the series.
While grounded in the reality of today, Michael Pettet's works find inspiration in biblical motifs, classical cinema, literature, and contemporary philosophical thought; they are rich with intelligent symbolism that is both universally recognisable and self-invented. Often times his work seems to be a visual representation of Bentham's and Foucault's panopticon prison; however, instead of allowing a central figure in a watchtower observe the prison inmates without them knowing, we see figures placed on mental stages as centres of personal universes; these surroundings claim control over our behaviour and individuality much to the opposition of the idea of panopticon by maintaining the concept of psychological prison.
While some of the works on display study the individual mind, others look into interpersonal relationships, conceptions of intimacy, adulthood, love, and ideas about sexuality with references to fetishism and commodity culture. Michael looks into the topic of beauty and the constructed need to portray people as beautiful objects meant for admiration; his aesthetic of ugliness is as uncomfortable as his examples of ideal beauty; however, both these are connected by the recurring theme of brokenness and hopelessness. The world in his works is in no way welcoming - but it is ours.
Ugnė Kleinauskaitė 2016