Dagmar Cyrulla’s exhibition, ‘I am’, explores both the personal and collective identities of contemporary women in her personal life in a series of 13 nude portraits.
Cyrulla describes her work as she describes herself – naughty, playful and challenging. Juxtaposing the old and the new, Cyrulla’s portraits feature women using the relatively recent invention of smartphones, while emulating poses that have been depicted for centuries in nude paintings. These dichotomies extend materially as Cyrulla’s style and employment of painterly technique vary from early 20th-century modernism to a more recent experimental practice that uncovers her dexterity with the painting process; as raw brushstrokes resemble those found on the artist’s palette.
When we rope in conversations around femininity while considering the works in ‘I am’, this back and forth between the old and new escalates into a discussion between the socially traditional and progressive. Cyrulla intends to challenge our thoughts in a newly interconnected world that is increasingly concerned with the future of women’s rights and passionately discussing the nuances of gender equality. Displaying a more traditional approach to feminist practice, Cyrulla’s women ‘all have a certain strength, but without losing their femininity or vulnerability.’ They appear confident in their exposure and beautiful in their imperfection, whether they are captured as ‘they reflect on themselves and their world unperturbed by the viewer’s gaze’, or as they meet our eyes in defiance of objectification. They are vulnerable, yes, but more fundamentally, they are firmly secure.
While reflecting the personality of the artist herself, the paintings in ‘I am’ are also informed by the personality of the individual woman depicted. Cyrulla has masterfully constructed a complex symbolic network within each painting between the figure depicted, her posture and activity, her domestic context, and the objects that surround her. All these parts come together within the confines of a still image to reveal ‘the home rituals, the myriad of choices made, and the moments had’ by each woman in her created world.
Having just walked away with a first-ever Highly Commended status from The Doug Moran Portrait Prize in 2017, Cyrulla explains that ‘this exhibition is the result of a year of painting the things that move me and engage my curiosity.’
13 October to 3 November, 2018