Archived Review (2013)
I am always on the hunt for The Nude when I explore the galleries in NYC each week. Over the years, you’ll find there’s a lot of great painters who’s work can look the same: clean technique, academic training, perhaps adhering to a popular genre.
But walking into the Flowers Gallery and seeing Aleah Chapin‘s new works was a refreshing surprise. There is not a “shocking” nude in the show. Instead, there is honest, direct portraiture of a unique vision. You can feel the intimacy and respect Chapin imbues into her subjects, but courageously, she does not back away from uncomfortable, truthful aspects of the flesh under duress.
Chapin, who grew up on a coastal island in Washington, now lives in New York. Her earlier nudes were interesting, but you could see she was exploring for her voice. This is Chapin’s first solo show, and these large scale paintings come across as mature, clear-eyed statements about aging, beauty, longevity, and perhaps the fragility of the body. A young artist in her late 20’s, Ms. Chapin has mastered her craft by combining tender, honest nude portraiture with a fascinating technique for realistically rendering both flesh and the patterns and textures (skins?) of nature.
Her brushstrokes are an alternating play of warm and cool hues, and her palette has a richness that is hard to translate through photographs. Many artists tend to overwork combinations of blues and peach colors, while Chapin seems to place the colors confidently, and then leaves them alone. Her mastery over her technique makes these artworks look easy and relaxed, like the woman and men who are so comfortable with their trusted portraitist.
Aleah Chapin won this year’s BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London and she is also the recipient of the Posey Foundation Scholarship, the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant and a Postgraduate Fellowship from the New York Academy of Art.