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August 21 – September 11, 2021

Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to announce its third solo exhibition with Australian artist Madeleine Pfull, on view in Gallery 3 from August 21 - September 18, 2021 in Los Angeles.

Pfull’s ongoing series of figurative paintings result from an introspective process that starts with the artist creating characters in costume and often using aging makeup. Performing as specific imagined characters whose identities were built by gleaning from her suburban upbringing in Sydney and from phenotypes from popular culture, she literally embodies the women she paints. Her subjects exude a specific type, usually wearing dated clothing, set within kitschy interiors and sporting flamboyant, retro hair. 

Some level of micro storytelling is always present in Pfull’s works. When creating the characters, she performs unique quips, gestures and mannerisms.  She also constructs elaborate backstories and narratives to be played out in the paintings. While discussing her painting The Interruption, the artist said “I like the small stories within the works.  [This painting] is based upon two women at work who have finally been able to take a cigarette break together to talk. But someone (the viewer) has interrupted them to say that one is needed back.”

The figures she describes as 'character portraits' are comedically awkward but also convey a sense of power and panache; these middle-aged women are queens of their own cookie-cutter universe. She cites The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman—the foundational text of dramaturgy— as a major influence of her work. This concern for her subjects’ interior lives and social impulses brings a sense of realism to her work. Her subjects, like us, feel a need to perform and a desire to evaluate other’s performances. The judgements we levy at Pfull’s figures are mirrored back at us, as her women stare unflinchingly out at the viewer. In this latest group of work from 2020-21, Pfull sets the women against solid backgrounds, creating an element of elegance as well as a distillation of every smirk, nervous eye, stray hair and clenched fist.

In the latest exhibition, diptychs and triptychs dominate, a format she has used in the past, usually to help capture specific moments in deeper dimension.  These image groupings feature compositions that are almost identical to one another, save for small gestural details like facial expressions.  It is as though Pfull means to show the moment before or after the perfect smile. The artist describes the three sunflower paintings (Third Place in the Look-a-like contest I,II & III) as a journey about being thrust into the spotlight. The painted woman harbors a sense of shame for coming in third place at a contest, which gradually diminishes her joy across the three canvases. She hides behind a sunflower with a feigned sniff— an awkward gesture, given that sunflowers do not have a fragrance. 

Most of Pfull’s works feature variations on the woman more commonly seen in the background of classic TV and movies—the ones easy to pass over. Her process is an amalgamation of the tradition of typifying personalities best represented by Cindy Sherman’s persona work, and the performative embodiment of family members through mask-wearing as seen in the Gillian Wearing’s photography. As such, Pfull’s quirky figures are embraced with an earnest tone that is tender, nostalgic, and deeply personal.  The result is a stylish, yet peculiar, exploration of the self through the veil of compelling personas. 

When asked about the ongoing series, the artist says “The repetition of the characters allows for them to become more than just women of a certain age and a certain era. I hope it allows for more nuanced meanings to come through. They are a vessel to explore subtleties in human interactions.”

- Margaret Zuckerman

Madeleine Pfull (b.1993) has had solo exhibitions at Salon Nino Mier, Cologne (2020), Chalk Horse Gallery, Sydney (2019), Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles (2018), M2 Gallery, Sydney (2017); and group exhibitions at Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles (2020), and Johannes Vogt, New York (2019), among others.  Her residencies include Salon Nino Mier, Jen Mann, and Spark Box Studio, Canada. She holds a BFA from Sydney College of the Arts.