Anna Weyant’s dollhouse at Gagosian in Paris

Anna Weyant’s dollhouse at Gagosian in Paris

It is perhaps a naughty secret or a dark mystery that the protagonist of Girl with Candlestick (2023) seems to want to reveal to visitors who cross the threshold of 9 rue de Castiglione, headquarters of Gagosian’s Parisian space and now the scene of the latest solo exhibition, and the first in Europe, of Anna Weyant (1995, Calgary, Canada).

Anna Weyant, “The Guitar Man”, 2023, installation view © Anna Weyant, photo Thomas Lannes, courtesy Gagosian

For her overseas “solo” debut, entitled The Guitar Man, the Canadian artist has constructed a visual narrative with an imaginary and sombre flavour, consisting of a corpus of unreleased paintings, which are still life and female portraits. Once again, Weyant brings to the stage the myth of the doll’s house, now emblematic of her pictorial poetics. Using an aesthetic that oscillates between the surreal and photorealism, the artist reinterprets the image of the doll to rethink the adolescence period. That delicate and also fascinating phase in which all problems are faced as if they were unsolvable catastrophes, such as the end of a love affair that lasted only a few weeks or the exclusion from an important party. Of this ‘cruel’ age, Weyant emphasises the tragicomic nuance by using a ‘dark’ humour that mixes the painful with the affable, the funny with the sad and the dream with the nightmare. With delicate irony, the artist sets the characters against a dark scenic backdrop, where sensual bodies stand out thanks to the soft sepia palette. In her stories the figures, as it often happens in real life, are deprived of the so-called Happy Ending for a mysterious and severe ending typical of Nordic fairy tales.

Anna Weyant, “The Guitar Man”, 2023, installation view © Anna Weyant, photo Thomas Lannes, courtesy Gagosian

The maiden in Girl with Candlestick could easily come from some contemporary Gothic fairy tale for adults: her pale, porcelain-smooth face is framed by a cascade of ash-blond hair, while her opulent, sensual body is wrapped in a thin white sheet. Despite the pitch blackness looming menacingly over her and the burning lock of hair, the young woman flaunts a disarming, disturbingly unnatural serenity. This effect is amplified by the chiaroscuro that gives her a melodramatic, almost ghostly expression, reminiscent of cinematic lighting. The theatrical use of light, reminiscent of the great Dutch masters from the Golden Age, also returns as a constant in the other paintings such as in The Return of the Girls Next Door (2023), where the light gives the girls’ half-naked bodies – the same tripled – a sculptural appearance. In this regard, the artist declares: “I love it when a figure is almost sculptural and your eye can move around it”.

Anna Weyant, “The Guitar Man”, 2023, installation view © Anna Weyant, photo Thomas Lannes, courtesy Gagosian

In House Exterior (2023), an apparently uninhabited three-storey wooden house, Weyant experiments with a form of expressive cross-lighting, creating a claustrophobic aura that in turn produces a strong psychological tension. Observing the painting, one seems to be standing in front of Norman Bates’ mansion in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) or the Blackwood sisters’ home in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). Such similarities are no mere coincidence, for her work Weyant draws inspiration from American pop culture icons – Looney Tunes, the Addams family, Playboy and Cluedo – which he mixes with contemporary historical references.

Anna Weyant, “House Exterior”, 2023 (detail), oil on canvas, 48 x 36 x 1 12 inches (121.9 x 91.4 x 3.8 cm) © Anna Weyant, photo Rob McKeever, courtesy Gagosian

If the quality and technical rigour are unquestionable, Weyant’s iconographic vocabulary reveals a certain repetitiveness of the subjects, which are rather monotonous in their poses and expressions. This monotony nevertheless allows points of agreement to be established with some of today’s artists such as John Currin, Will Cotton, Ewa Juszkiewicz and Lisa Yuskavage. Like that of her colleagues, Weyant’s aesthetic possesses all the characteristics to be noticed and loved by the general public as well as the international art market, which seems to be hungry for reassuringly beautiful images.


Anna Weyant. The Guitar Man
18.10.2023 – 22.12.2023
rue de Castiglione 9, Parigi


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