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Self-portrait of a broken mind

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Date Minted: March 6, 2020

Artist Description: While the mind is destroyed, what do you see in front of the mirror? Sizes: 2065x2860

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

The more art I encounter, the more I find that an artist’s honesty is immediately apparent when looking at a new piece. There’s some ineffable quality of truth that is simply inherent in these pieces, the presumed result of an artist achieving whatever they set out to do, achieving it with intent, expressing with the specificity of their sensibility some intimate emotion, situation, juxtaposition, composition, etc. These pieces bleed their creator’s blood, and rarely do we see an example of this as affecting as Self-portrait of a broken mind, artist Undeadlu’s moody, magnificently-colored demonstration of a mind in turmoil. Some pieces are esoteric with their intention, guarded and subtle in how they reveal their artist’s mind. Not so much Self-portrait, which sings its openness. It is neither an attempt to confuse an observer nor an intricate exposé of an emotion singularly felt. Self-portrait achieves the beautiful gift of universality, and does it while maintaining a distinctive visual style, a sumptuous color palette, and a wholesome, aesthetic cohesion. 

But after all, that’s what Undeadlu does. This is an artist adept with color, and at drawing out computerized brushstrokes in works that appear equal-parts hand-crafted and computer-animated. It’s a delicate balance, a tight-rope between the two, between human and machine, reminiscent of the way photorealistic painters use an audience’s expectation of process to great effect. And in these well-composed pieces, a keen and unique eye emerges, one interested in the female human form, certainly —female bodies appear in all manner of positions, from a number of angles, from close-up and from far-away, busts and full-bodies, wrapped in a generous palette of skin-tones– and one interested in fiction. We see constantly in Undeadlu’s work a playful enjoyment of unmarked sci-fi tropes, or of branded artwork, like a piece Kidnapping El Profesor, which overtly references the show Money Heist (and also may be a collaboration with Hackatao, whose visual style is also on display there).

But Self-portrait is the only, well, self-portrait in Undeadlu’s oeuvre, or at least the only one that’ claims to be so. All throughout this same oeuvre, women are depicted staring away from the center of the image, away from us, averting their gaze. There’s a guardedness to all of Undeadlu’s characters, and perhaps that fact is the Rosetta Stone for unlocking Self-portrait, which does away with the cohesive female face altogether in favor of a surrealist mirror imposed upon a neck, placed where a head should be. As gilded and lustrous as the mirror’s golden frame is, its glass is cracked, splintered into fifteen pieces, each reflecting a shard of a woman’s face. In some shards are ruby red lips, plump and shining like a 1950’s pinup. In other’s, the reflection of a hazel eye. In some we see noses. Others, just skin. Hair. And not in any cohesive pattern either; this is the reflection of a face shattered and smattered into countless pieces, arranged by the artist so it’s very difficult to even mentally refit the pieces back together into a cogent form. The mirror itself is propped up by the woman’s hand, placed in her palm as if she’s resting her head there, which, who knows, she might be. The rest of her form is nude, beautifully painted in various shades of peach, tan, and white, oblong globs of colors seeming to mature out of one another, like Russian nesting dolls of color. The woman’s form in the foreground juxtaposes with a dark and gloomy background, one of ambiguous color —browns, soft reds, blacks, blurry silvers— and which also, in some spots, displays similar cracked glass as the figure’s face.

As I said, Self-portrait does not present itself as a riddle. The composition, combined with an Artist Description which tells us, “While the mind is destroyed, what do you see in front of the mirror?”, communicates the cracked and fractured mental state of the central figure, which we can assume from the title of the piece is the artist herself. Some pieces neither demand nor encourage a philosophical, intertextual reading. Some pieces can simply survive on the sheer strength of their style and the sheer ability of their artist. Self-portrait falls into the latter camp. Taking the surrealist style of Miro and Magritte and Dali and using it to magnificently minimalist effect, Undeadlu need do little more than what she does: present a unique, ultra-creative, highly-expressive painting of a woman broken into pieces. 

I respect the artist deeply for her ability. I also respect the artist deeply for her trust in her audience. This piece is a privilege to look at, not just because of its expert artistry, but because of how vulnerable the artist has made herself for the service of her observers. By exposing her own mind like this, she is engaging in a brave and thoughtful piece of performance art. For here is Undeadlu forever captured in a moment of deep pain. Here is Undeadlu forever captured in evocative brushstrokes and luscious colors and thoughtful composition. Here is Undeadlu taking the breadth of her creative talent and mixing it with the breadth of her emotional honesty, and these are things that, either alone or together, we cannot simply take for granted. We are better appreciators of art for being introduced to this piece, its gentle gaze, its unctuous surrealism. 



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