The first thing you’ll probably notice about Margarida Fleming’s artwork is the eyes. They have a moveable quality that follows you around. These eyes are real, as in they're often photographs. To Margarida, that's a very important detail.
Margarida is restless, always looking for something to do, a place to be or a face to explore. The way she maps her faces is unique. She starts out with a photograph and then allows it to blossom into something entirely different. A dark complexion with black hair that ends up with fair skin and golden locks.
The strokes that build up her deeply expressionistic faces are dense, thick and with an element of unrestrained erraticness. In doing so, she breaks down the boundary between the artist and the audience, creating something that’s deeply honest and authentic.
The skin of her subjects exist in stark contradiction to the eyes, always the focal point of Margarida’s work and something that she regards with a degree of reverence. It seemed like to touch a face, that is to artistically represent it, is okay. But a soul is something that must never be touched.
There are folkloric cultures that believe when a person leaves the earth, when they pass away, that a house should leave the doors and windows open to offer the easiest possible passage for the soul to escape – to be free.
Margarida’s paitnings seem free. They manage to avoid the constraining shackles of gendered, artistic and beauty preconceptions. It makes something truly unique, although that doesn’t quite touch it.
Odin lost his eye, as did Horus, in Nordic and Egyptian myth respectively. The eye is held in such high regard by Margarida that it is often left without artistic rendition or embellishment. She will use the source photograph’s eyes as a homage to the original part of her painting. Her characters original life leaves her painting through the open doors - the eyes.
Margarida’s artwork is a process of transformation. What happens at first is the seed and what follows is the blossoming cycle. From the origins as a photograph, she retains the eyes, and often the lips. They create a very honest representation of the person’s essential being. It create a work of semi-fiction.
They are also detailed, and must be so, otherwise they can easily lose the captivating quality that Margarida hopes to produce.
The wild styles of the skin also us to reflect on imperfection. From afar, in magazines, television and films, we see people that look unblemished, perfect and somewhat idealised versions of beauty. Margarida will never stray away from what these people look like up close.
The skin, bold, daring, abrupt, open, is in stark opposition to the exquisite eyes that demand attention. Her home country of Portugal, a place attracting increasing global attention, has been the inspiration for much of her work. It might not directly influence the faces, but it certainly reflects how she, and we, look at them.
Traditional backgrounds in her paintings that lend themselves to Portuguese traditions have proved popular. This makes her happy, not because they sell, but because a country that had for so long sunk into its surroundings is now highly desirable. In that sense, her work is empowering, not of the mainly female figures, but of the environment in which they were born.
With a keen eye for making impactful art, Margarida has been experimenting with more layered styles using transparent plastics to create an oil-based three-dimensional rendering of the human face, yet these pieces are possibly more expressive than her work on canvas. The dimensions demand exploration.
This is something she hopes to continue doing. There are no shortages of faces, no shortages or eyes either, so there will never be an end to her chosen subject matter. The human face is infinitely interesting in the lived-biography that it exudes. Margarida is more than capable of capturing this natural wonder – let’s hope that she keeps doing so.
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