The Georgian era saw the rise in a jewelry trend that’s just as sentimental and peculiar: to remember deceased spouses or to honor secret affairs without revealing a person’s identity, people would commission tiny renderings of a person’s eye to be directed onto brooches, rings, and other accessories paint that they might carry with them. Much like a lock of hair or a portrait hidden in a medallion, the abstracted feature was anonymous and imperceptible to most, but deeply personal to the wearer.
Robyn Rich recalls this centuries-old fad with an extensive body of work that embeds tiny oil paintings in cutlery, cans and other antique vessels. “With a love for reuse and recycling, the found objects that I use result in a simple and often nostalgic canvas that offers little distraction and focuses on the beauty of the eye,” she says. “These items that we use every day are often taken for granted, overlooked and forgotten, but in my work they have a different life and help to tell a story.”
Whether centered on the eyes, nose or lips, each realistic section conveys a wide range of human emotions – the expressive works capture everything from surprise and worry to satisfaction – through a single, isolated feature. “I paint friends, complete strangers and the eyes of painted portraits from the past. Every eye I paint becomes a small part of me, ”says the Frankston, Australia-based artist.
In addition to her ongoing series of residential work, Rich is currently working with designers Kelty pelechytics on a collection of bespoke wearables. She also has an upcoming solo show at forty-five below in Melbourne. Titled I see you, the exhibition is the culmination of a call by Rich in 2019 to women and women who identify themselves to share their portraits and stories with her, resulting in more than 100 pieces to be seen this October. Until then you will find an extensive archive of your miniatures Instagram.
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