3-23 October 2020
An exhibition of portraits by Anton Lambaart recording the compelling stories of 6 young Dunedin
men touching on their grief, loss, conflict, challenges and victories.
This exhibition was never intended to simply be a show of ‘considered studies’, depicting attractive individuals for other people to admire. Rather, my intent was to create a singular body of work, focused on a crucial social issue. This approach is aligned with Tania Bruguera’s* philosophy of ‘Arte Útil’ (Useful Art) - where art takes on the responsibility of transforming people’s lives, even on a small scale. “It is art as activism....” ‘The stories young men keep’, is about the experiences that hold many of our young men on the edge - frozen, isolated and at times lost. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of suicide, in the world, especially amongst men between the ages of 18 to 30. The raison d’être of this exhibition is to create a space where you can, for a moment, carefully read the faces of these young men and ask yourself a few questions - “What stories are they really keeping? Are these men safe? Do I really ‘see’ the young men I know?” Each aspect of this show has been carefully considered to build an intimate relationship between you and the subjects. The portraits are small, delicate and finely painted on Italian gesso. They are heavily varnished and float in soft wooden frames as if cocooned in space and time. These techniques are designed to draw you closer to the faces, the scenes and the stories around them. ‘The stories young men keep’, has been a collaborative effort in that each of the sitters were involved in the choice of their backgrounds and how their narratives would be conveyed - as well as allowing themselves to be depicted in a more exposed and fragile manner. Each portrait has been purposely presented in a layered, illusive and enigmatic way - almost as if you are viewing significant objects in a museum, where the curator has provided just enough information for the visit to be educational. The poems, written by artist Jenny Longstaff and attached to each painting, leave more questions than answers. Amongst this collection of male images is a young woman, Samantha - she is about to give birth to her second son. Her presence reminds us that women play an important role as mothers, lovers and friends. These women are the ones who witness the stories of young men as they unravel, influencing the outcomes, often for the better - sometimes for the worst.