PRISKA PASQUER PARIS is pleased to present the solo exhibition Tending Trending by the painter Zohar Fraiman (born in Jerusalem in 1987 and working in Berlin), following up on her highly successful Show me your Sheroes (2021) in Cologne.
Fraiman’s paintings weave a complex interplay between illusion and reality. The focus is on the image of female identities and gender in the digital age. With humour and incisiveness – but without being cynical or mocking – Fraiman creates multilayered visual worlds that become an open surface onto which contemporary forms of presentation are projected.
Exploring contemporary forms of socialisation in a social media context, Fraiman creates situational scenes that tie into the visual worlds of digital platforms like Instagram, TikTok or Tinder. The colourful, occasionally loud paintings create personalities as the sum of different facets – shaped by exterior trends. Sometimes they reveal Fraiman’s comic style, like when she incorporates iconic animated figures into the scenes – such as Cinder Sisters, which references the Disney film Cinderella. In other places, she allows classic female images from art history to shine forth. In her painting Ugat Gvina, for example, the face of the young woman protagonist fans out into the famous face of Botticelli’s Venus. She is sitting in front of an impressive dessert stand, engrossed in taking a food selfie with a large slice of Ugat Gvina, which is Hebrew for cheesecake. As well as reflecting the extent to which Fraiman has immersed herself in the history of painting, the art history references point to the way pictures have always picked up on trends and beauty ideals, refining them or even creating them in the first place.
After all, there was a time when paintings never used to portray how the subjects actually looked – instead, artists would paint them to an ideal dictated by the latest trends. Today, in the age of smartphones and social media, cameras are a constant presence. By examining the modern forms of self-presentation, Fraiman’s visual worlds demonstrate to impressive effect how photos and social platforms come together to shape our behaviour and our personality.
The logic of specialness
Even the exhibition title itself – Tending Trending – asks if we can escape these trends. Are we not all inherently drawn to trends – whether consciously or unconsciously – and in spite of or maybe even because of our great desire for uniqueness? After all, if something is individual for a brief moment, it won’t be long before it becomes part of the mainstream. According to cultural scientist Andreas Reckwitz, the desire for uniqueness has developed into a paradoxical social expectation. Everything – how we live, how we eat, how we dress – is measured according to the standard of specialness (Reckwitz, Andreas: Society of Singularities, Suhrkamp, 2018, p. 12). Fraiman illustrates this extensive cultural change in her works.
Images of controlled imperfection
In Tending Trending II, a young woman is lying relaxed, almost lasciviously on a chaise lounge. Her right arm hangs down in duplicate – the artist uses the popular Glitch Art filter function and makes the image accessible as a digital photo. While the woman is looking in the mirror of her Chanel powder box, she applies a momentously red lipstick to her lips. Things are becoming a little chaotic at her foot end. The shoes strewn around the floor bear silent witness to the outfits she has tried on previously. She assumes the same pose as that of the lady in the picture on the wall. The artist borrows this picture from Henri Matisse’s iconic Large Reclining Nude (1935), in which he portrayed Russian model Lydia Delectorskaya. The naked woman presents herself to viewers, self-assured and perfectly at ease. By using Matisse’s large, monochrome colour fields to recreate the room interior, she is weaving together past and present. The young woman’s face once again calls to mind Lydia Delectorskaya.
For Matisse, that picture was a key step towards the aesthetic of radically reduced shapes. Around 22 surviving black-and-white photographs still bear testimony to the difficult genesis of this work. Is the artist revealing a slight element of tongue-in-cheek through seemingly perfect snapshots of digital visual worlds?
Worlds in between
This interplay between different perspectives and narratives pervades Fraiman’s work. For example, her Matchmaker painting superimposes two different situations to create a surrealistic scenario. In one of these, two young women are getting ready for a night out. In the other, Fraiman references the Disney film Mulan, enveloping the women in a narrative about relationship cultures. When the film begins, Mulan agrees to her parents’ wish for her to meet with a matchmaker with a view to finding a husband and starting a family. Today, this role is played by online dating apps. But in the film, the attempt remains fruitless: after a series of unfortunate mishaps, the matchmaker declares that Mulan will never be a good wife. Eventually, Mulan chooses a path far removed from stereotypical role models. Fraiman’s painting references this turning point in the film when the dress of the woman on the left appears to catch fire. By contrast, the legs of the woman on the right hover in mid-air, veritably pulling her out of the picture. Here, Fraiman makes reference to Birthday (1915) by Marc Chagall, in which the protagonist pair appear to float away from a room – or, better still, a world – that is clearly too small. The narrative of the exhibition also revolves around this symbol: of a life between the digital and real world.