Amy Bessone (B. 1970)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Amy Bessone A.B.T 2008' (on the overlap)
oil on canvas
68 1/8 x 50in. (173 x 127cm.)
Painted in 2008
Salon 94, New York.
Acquired from the above in 2008.
New York, Salon 94, With Friends Like These, 2008.
London, Saatchi Gallery, Body Language, 2013-2014 (illustrated in colour, p. 21).

Lot Essay

Faust is painted like a person, but he’s actually a figurine. The glints of white in Amy Bessone’s clever game of artifice reveal the deception’s glazed surface. Faust’s hand, fingering his pointed beard, is fingernail-free and undefined as the tiny figure has been blown up to such monumental scale; his eyebrows are painted upon a face cast in porcelain. By treating kitsch curios with the reverence of grand human portraiture, Bessone in effect performs a psychological study of cultural tropes – zoomed up close and removed from any context to a blank monochrome space, the china devil is endowed with a sense of psychic interiority sharply at odds with his decorative function. Bessone parodies the collectability of the art object and the reduction of great literature to tacky shelf ornament, but she also imparts a comic humanity to the little statuette, who is at once brought to life and frozen in the stillness of the painting. His exaggerated makeup appropriately evokes the stage masks of Commedia dell’arte, which functioned through the satirising of particular societal ‘types;’ his big blank eyes and wicked grin seem on the verge of expression but can fundamentally reveal nothing, leaving us pondering his place as an artefact of meaning.

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