Centered around the Queen’s red guards, and in exploring the person behind the stern façade, Carolina Piteira is currently showing her inaugural exhibition Curtain Falls in East London.
The Portuguese artist splits her time between London and Lisbon and is also a cultural ambassador to the Portuguese embassy, which almost makes it quite incongruous that her Curtain Falls series is based on something so quintessentially British.
Working in all manner of media, from painting to drawing, film and photography, Piteira states that the medium is dictated by the task at hand:
“I believe that it’s the subject that calls for the medium. It’s something you can’t control, and you shouldn’t try to either! The different media would appear as a necessity to express a specific idea, depending on when each idea would arise.”
Elaborating further on the series, she continues,
“Due to this, the process of creation itself was quite turbulent and challenging, but I guess you have to dedicate yourself to each and every idea that must manifest itself into reality.”
Piteira’s Curtain Falls doesn’t just explore the façade of the Queens guards, but also the masks that people construct and use in everyday life.
“I did not want to focus exclusively on the guards. This exhibition is about every single one of us, and it confronts that concept of ‘judging a book by its cover’. The thing here is that, almost everyone only ever encounters the ‘cover’ when meeting others, whereas I want to go behind everyone’s mask and see who everyone really is. Some of us are energetic, rebellious, some are fragile and sensitive, some are erotic! But these things cannot be seen easily when most of us hide behind our ‘masks’ when in the public eye.”
The series presents a vast collection of paintings created over the past year and feature sumptuous, partially nude women draped in the red coats of the guards, their eyes masked out, and in most cases, a focus on the expression of their mouths is present. Explaining the use of the vibrant scarlet in the pieces, Piteira explains,
“Being a person that gives importance and attention to colours, it was not very hard to notice the fiery and eye-catching red of the guards’ uniforms in the setting of a grey coloured city. I found the red of the uniforms very elegant, seductive and charming.” Continuing, “One cannot forget that red is also the colour of passion, of love and romance. On top of this, I once heard that the guards would wear red uniforms so that when they would bleed in battle, they would not notice, nor be psychologically affected by the blood. I’m not sure if this is true, but it sounds wonderful to me.
The whole inspirational process, it seems, boils down to love and pain – so what else does one really need?”
Other paintings in the series include the guards, whether it be them pulling a highly expressive face or a section of their body, or at times the guards with their faces blacked out, alluding once again to the element of masquerade.
The masking element is employed to photography portion of the series, where Piteira presents a red guard in uniform around various locations in London holding one of her paintings of a guards face in front of their own in order to hide their identity. Explaining her process Piteira elaborates,
Caroline Piteira, ‘Identity Performance’
“The photography was in fact an identity performance around London. It’s a Guard in uniform walking around London, which is quite odd in its own right as they are pretty still most of the time, so it was hard to miss to begin with. I wanted to study the reactions of people when they would encounter the Guard. The catch was not only that he was walking around in a relaxed manner, but he was also wearing an actual mask of a guard over his face. Some were prompt to interact and [were] quite intrigued – fewer would just be indifferent. It was interesting to see though, as when my Guard was wearing a real, literal mask, everyone wanted to see who the person behind the mask was.”
Carolina Piteira Curtain Falls is on display at DegreeArt.com until 22nd September 2014.
Inset image: Caroline Piteira, ‘Girl’.