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Rebecca Roberts: Untitled
Untitled was first presented in 2000 at the MSVU Art Gallery in the exhibition Prospect 8: Rebecca Roberts Paintings, while the artist was an undergraduate student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Robertsí composite painting, based on colour photographs, comprises thirty-six panels of equal height and variable width butted together to form a continuous, eight-metre wide strip. The subject is a naked young woman.
In most of the narrower panels, close-up images of the body are cropped to the verge of abstraction. In two of the largest panels, the complete figure appears in a cellar, picking at her inner thigh with her hands. These views, which occur toward the middle and end of the sequence, help to make sense of the other, partial, views of the same figure. The panels representing the figure in the cluttered cellar have slightly bluish cast. These alternate at intervals with panels having a much warmer, yellow-orange palette, in which the young woman is represented as crouching, in extreme close-up, and intently self-absorbed. The intercut sequencing of the panels resembles cinematic montage, except that the duration of a shot is indicated by the relative width of the panel or frame, rather than the number of frames.
The shaved hair and nose ring identify the figure as that of the artist and the painting as a performative self-portrait. Robertís solidarity with forty years of feminist history emerges through a combination of tactics, such as literally breaking up the pictorial field, repeating and cropping the figure, and endowing the nude female subject of the painting with a sovereign self-absorption. Having organized her self-portrait to suggest a sequence of overtly narcissistic actions, Roberts also mobilizes some of the strategies of feminist body art.