Martin van Zomeren is pleased to present ‘Unsex Me’, a solo exhibition of Cornelius Quabeck at the gallery.
The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe topful
Of direst cruelty!
Macbeth Act 1, scene 5, 38–43
“Unsex me here” is a famous quote from Macbeth. It’s basically Lady Macbeth asking to become a warrior. If she can trade off femininity for masculinity she will be able to fight. She wants to be someone she is not.
The series of ‘Unsex Me’ paintings are based on collages made from discarded portrait drawings of various people. With these collages Cornelius created new fictional characters that defy a simple categorization as man or woman. It’s a visual experiment executed in paintings with the intention to “picture” identities. When we speak about identity there tends to be a gap between who we think we are, what others think who we are and finally who we are.
The world has become incredibly complex, constantly changing. Nevertheless, there is a social sensitivity on the rise that allows us to openly and more eloquently discuss identity and gender. We have come to realize that we need to change our language to overcome chauvinism, racism, stereotypes, verbal abuse. There’s an interesting example of new found sensitivity in the world of social media: Facebook UK now allows users to chose from 71 gender options. This variety may sound surprising but it is by all means preferable to pick from a rather dazzling array gender options than just choose from a simple binary: yes or no, black or white, zero or one, male or female. To assimilate to the complex and layered world of today It can be incredibly difficult. When the act of adaption becomes seemingly impossible one might respond to overwhelming complexity by developing a more complex identity. These paintings are a playful attempt to visualize what these identities could possibly look like.
To pursue authenticity as an ideal, as something that must be achieved, is to be self consciously paradoxical. But those who seek authenticity insist that this paradox is built into the structure of the world they live in. This world, they say, represses, alienates, divides, denies, destroys, the self. To be oneself in a world is not a tautology but a problem.