Portrait of Anita Ch., oil on canvas.
photo: Dorota Sadovská
So reads a guideline in a manual for photographers, teaching them the mistakes to avoid in order to take good portrait pictures. Painter Dorota Sadovská also learned the rule, but unlike her peers was immediately consumed by the potential of the idea. What, she asked, would portraits from such viewpoints look like?
Her probing resulted in 29 miniature oil paintings now displayed at the City Gallery of Bratislava. Approximately 20x20 centimetres, the paintings portray women of various nationalities from a bottoms-up perspective. The exhibition is called "San Francisco-Brussels-Bratislava" as Sadovská met her subjects in these cities. She took pictures of them and later painted their portraits on canvas.
Sadovská's works resemble those of European artists portraying noblewomen in the 19th century, although with an ironic twist. She centres her objects on a black background. She has them wear much jewellery and make-up. However, their necks and shoulders are naked, and the viewer can peer into their nostrils.
"Many of the women I shot put make-up on to highlight their beauty, but that beauty vanished as soon as they threw their heads back," says Sadovská, 29. At the same time, though, she felt the women's bare, smoothly stretched necks implied a certain sensuality, bringing the word beauty back for discussion.
"We could argue whether the portrayed women look beautiful or not," she says. "Men may see them as if they were lying down, while women see them in a haughty pose. For somebody else, the pose in which I caught them might symbolise despair or vulnerability. Different people get different impressions of the paintings, different feelings."
Sadovská painted the portraits last year after winning a visual arts award and a scholarship to study at the Headlands Centre for Arts in San Francisco. A graduate of fine arts schools in France and Bratislava, she has held some 20 exhibitions in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and France. Later this year she will open two exhibitions in Ireland, featuring her paintings of saints.
San Francisco-Brussels-Bratislava exhibition runs at the Galéria mesta Bratislavy - Mirbachov palác, Františkánske nám. 11. It is open daily except Mondays 10:00-17:00 until March 24. Admission is Sk20-40. Tel: 02/5443-1556(7,8).