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Rita Nowak - Tableaux Vivants

Category: Portrait 28. May 2008

The production of “living pictures” has a tradition. They could already be found in the royal victory processions of antiquity and they appeared again in Catholic masses, as well as in ceremonial processions during the Renaissance and the Baroque eras. By the end of the eighteenth century, the art progressed to unmoving, held poses, which became one with the scenery, and were displayed “on stage”. Originating in France and from that point on coined Tableaux Vivants, these embodiments of historical paintings and sculptures found their way into the drawing rooms of the elite and became part of the main repertoire of the theatre and revue world of the nineteenth century.

The artist Rita Nowak, based in Vienna and London, is carrying on the tradition of the embodiment of living pictures with her held-pose photography. Drawing from historical paintings, she composes living pictures using fellow artists as models thereby bringing the historical works up-to-date. Rather than creating mere reproductions, she investigates the possibilities of interpretation, thereby developing pictures that visualize the past in the present and modern images that are depicted through the visual language of past centuries.

Rita Nowak began her artistic work with portraits of statues, as well as self-portraits. She explores the capacity of portraiture, the creation of living portraits, through the technique of Tableaux Vivants. The poses of the figures and the space of the scenery in her Tableaux are therefore not only interpretations of classical subjects. They are also visual depictions of personalities in which the area, light, and objects merge with the embodying person, resulting in a self-representation that does not only occur in a historical, but also in an individual/personal sense. (wh/jn)

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