Machiko Edmondson “Double Bluff”

Machiko Edmondson’s Unattainable Desire

In her first virtual solo exhibition taking place at Robert Berry Gallery from June 26th through July 26th, 2020, London-based artist Machiko Edmondson has once again created an expansive look into the beauty and consumer cultures we currently live in.  Just imagine, you can have a larger than life, never-aging fashion model being ever present on your living room wall for decades to come.

For her new body of work, Edmondson has painted new hyperrealistic faces through a rigorous studio practice and a renewed interest in offering the viewer some narrative into the lives of these stylized portraits.  The artist has combined a subtle mixture of images to create these new portraits, while also using some actual figures for the first time in years.

Image courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery

For the untrained eye, Edmondson’s works appear to be larger than life photographs of women with the type of ideal beauty that one would see in all the beauty magazines targeted to young woman to promote style and luxury through the acquisition of consumer goods: clothing, makeup, hair products and jewelry.  When in fact, the artist is actually promoting a disdain for the entire industry.  The viewer who takes the time to get up close to the paintings will discover the immense amount of brushwork, blending, and laborious effort that went into making these paintings become something much more.   

The artist states, “the works become paintings of unattainable desire,” and it is this bluff that is at the heart of the exhibition.  In the era of identity becoming dominant, Edmondson strips these figures of what makes each women an individual, and ironically furthers the notion of unobtainable beauty.  These idealized women have a level of beauty that is simply not possible in a reality without significant photo editing and manipulation.  The artist elaborates that, “the show is about clichés of ideals and desires,” meaning that the stylize images are objects of desire, but one cannot place when or where they might have seen this person before, because they are combinations of every beautiful woman that has ever existed.

Image courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery

The closest comparison to what Edmondson is doing would be “Jerry’s Girl” (2013) by Richard Prince in which he digitally combined 57 of Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriends that appeared in the popular TV sitcom Seinfeld.  By adding 57 translucent layers on top of each other in an editing program, Prince summarized the face that Seinfeld was attracted to.  In Edmondson’s work, she combines and reworks numerous source photos by blending and smudging oil paint to create a similar level of obscuring each identity, but her end result becomes a very sharp and crisp level of detail when viewed from a few feet away.  Clearly she has mastered her artistic practice, and is it further evident that she is an alumni of Goldsmiths Collage alongside such other British artists Paul Morrison, Bridget Riley, Lucien Freud, and three-fourths of the BritPop band blur.

The timeless nature of the artist’s painted faces and oeuvre are quite the visual bluff, and are simply something unique in the oversaturated art market full of naïve portrait painting that is dominating today.  Beauty is something we all desire, even when it is unobtainable.  With Edmondson’s work, this level of beauty becomes something we can all live with.  Colossal sized in scale compared with most contemporary portraiture, these oil-on-canvas paintings would be quite the social statement in one’s home; just make sure you have the space as the largest works are 72 x 72 in |183 x 183 cm and acknowledge her long history of sizeable auction results. 

Image courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery

Continuing the ongoing trend of virtual exhibitions, Robert Berry Gallery has once again put forth a light of positivity in the art world during this ongoing coronavirus pandemic that we’re all tired of hearing about and talking about. Edmondson’s virtual exhibition takes place at and is on view until July 26th, 2020.