Myles Oxenford’s figure paintings are charged with tender emotions, the characters caught in moments of reverie and longing. Some allow you to gaze while they gaze away in introspection. Others catch you looking and look back with a glint of challenge.
These paintings are triggered by images from popular culture, historical paintings, film stills and fashion photography. Myles splices the characters from these influences, sculpting and editing them away from the originals, becoming director, hairdresser, stylist and make-up artist. He likes to go on an emotional journey with the paintings, away from the original source, beyond the body to somewhere more psychological. The final figures play with masculinities and femininities as Myles explores notions of fragility in strength and vice-versa.
Myles is drawn to different types of bohemianism and theatricality, from Pre-Raphaelite heightened drama, to the idealism of the sixties, to the euphoria of the second summer of love rave scene. In the utopian world of his paintings, where it often feels like the night of a party, or lazing in the sun the morning after, the self is fleetingly ambiguous and nuanced. While working in the studio Myles listens to tunes from his vinyl collection and the lyrics, often doo-wop love songs, wind themselves into the souls of the characters, so each is named after their musical inspiration.
By leaving the backgrounds empty Myles places the portraits on a neutral stage so their unique characters shine. Leaving negative spaces within the figures allows the viewer to become even more intimate with the work. “I want to leave the paintings slightly open and undone, so the viewer can become part of the work, completing the art with their own imaginings and emotions.”