There are a significant number of paintings within Figurative Art Now that feature phones and laptops, which are very reflective of our modern world, highlighting how the majority of us are switched on and plugged in almost constantly.

The positive effects of this mean we have a wealth of knowledge available to us in a matter of seconds. We can constantly seek connection and instantly communicate with people across the globe. Still, our relationship with technology has detrimental effects on our attention spans. The balance between our work lives and leisure and means we can struggle to be fully present and truly appreciative of our surroundings. The following paintings explore some of these ideas. 

Hashim Akib Passing By Acrylic 84 x 69 cm £1,100

The first image is an acrylic painting by Hashim Akib entitled Passing By. He has captured a busy London street which was based on a photo he took of a passerby, saying, ‘I was taken by how the central figure remained so still while everyone around her was hurrying to their destinations.’ This central figure stands looking down, enfixed on her phone screen, seemingly blissfully unaware of the bustling energy of her surrounding environment. Hashim’s stylistic use of large flat head brushes and loose, expressive mark-making really captures this sense of busy movement, and his use of perspective, with the angled street, draws the viewer's attention straight to the central figure, pulling us into her world.

Benjamin Alden That Sinking Feeling... Oil 76 x 102 cm £900

Benjamin Alden’s more imaginative piece, That Sinking Feeling... features a woman using a laptop. Benjamin explains: 'That Sinking Feeling... was painted in response to the growing sense of uncertainty for forces outside our control. The painting portrays my partner and me within our home, unaware of the rising flooding beneath us.’ With little but our technology, books as painted on the wall behind the male figure, and our own thoughts to keep us occupied when we could not leave our homes, this painting could reflect the sense of unease the unpredictable pandemic left many of us feeling. Benjamin describes the figures as ‘unaware’ of the flood, and this could reflect the way we become so engrossed by our technology that we can forget to pay attention to the physical world around us. Benjamin’s work generally speaks to the universality of the human condition, where the viewer becomes an onlooker to private moments, achieved through an immersive use of light and closely cropped compositions.

Jonathan Chan Shadow Rabbit Oil 53 x 43 cm £1,000

The next painting is Jonathan Chan’s Shadow Rabbit, a portrait of Sef, a professional storyteller. It shows Sef in the cafe of Foyles, shortly before the second national lockdown at the end of October 2020. Jonathan described how the distinctive light immediately moved him to paint the scene, which he has captured beautifully, giving the painting a golden glow created by the soon-to-set sun. As Jonathan was making preparatory sketches and taking reference photos, Sef’s phone rang. As he reached over, his hands cast a fleeting shadow puppet on the wall, hence the title Shadow Rabbit. Jonathan further explains: ’The pose of Sef reaching for his phone rather encapsulates an aspect of contemporary life, where our eyes always seem to be sliding towards a phone screen at any given moment. FOMO (fear of missing out) is the alternative title of this painting.’ This is another work of art commenting on how due to always being connected via our technology, we can tend to be less present in the here and now, easily distracted by our phones.  

Caroline Cornelius Holiday at Home Watercolour 44 x 33 cm £500

The next painting is Caroline Cornelius’ Holiday at Home. Through her art practice generally, Caroline explores the female form and captures intimate scenes from her personal experiences. Caroline explains: ‘I aim to explore the duality of ageing and maturing: the mutability of beauty and the confidence that comes with self-acceptance.’ For this piece, Caroline drew inspiration from how she experienced the pandemic and how her phone was used as a tool to escape her daily life and monotonous surroundings. She describes her inspiration behind this painting: ‘During the pandemic, we have lived vicariously through our screens. A year at home, and we have experienced most aspects of our lives remotely. Our bedrooms have become offices, school rooms, shop changing rooms. Our phones are a window to the world outside.’ Caroline explores the more positive side of technology and the joy that our phones and connection to the internet brought when there was little for us to experience within our daily lives.

Michal Katzir Sue on the Land-Line Oil 80 x 60 cm £3,000

Michal Katzir’s Sue on the Land-Line shows some slightly older technology, as the figure is on a landline phone with a coiled cord. The painting is part of a series depicting memories of the artist’s garden and gardening on the roof in the early 70s, a time period before our technology became portable. The fact this painting is an exploration of memory is reflected through the abstracted artistic style.

Anastasia Shimshilashvili Adam Oil 100 x 100 cm £4,000

The final painting featuring phones or laptops is Anastasia Shimshilashvili’s oil painting Adam, created as part of a triptych called Adam & Eve. The laptop is central to the image, accompanied by a pile of notebooks and crumpled sheets of paper. Traditionally, technology, the pursuit of knowledge, the mind, and the brain is often coded as masculine, whilst femininity is coded through the body, nurture, and nature. The bright blank screen on the laptop could represent new beginnings, explaining the relationship between the image and Anastasia’s exploration of Adam and Eve.

We would love for you to explore the whole Figurative Art Now online exhibition, using your own technological devices, and hope that you share the exhibition far and wide, as this online platform makes the exhibition far more accessible, allowing for those who are unable to travel or who are stuck in isolation to be able to view the incredible array of artworks that are featured from the safety and comfort of your own homes!

Article written by Hannah Martin

Figurative Art Now is available to Browse & Buy until 20 September

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