Anh Duong On The Art Of Painting Celebrities

anh-duong-on-the-art-of-painting-celebrities

Susan Sarandon, 2009, artwork by Anh Duong.

Galerie Gmurzynska

Anh Duong is a French-born artist who loves to paint. After studying architecture in Paris, she has been a painter in New York City since 1988. As a former fashion model (she has worked with renowned fashion photographers like Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier), she naturally turned to portraiture as a medium for her art.

Now, the esteemed artist is having a solo show in Zurich called La Tentation d’Exister, There is Always Champagne In the Fridge which is on view until September 30 at Galerie Gmurzynska.

Over 20 paintings are on view, which depict people, objects and self-portraits of the artist. Isabelle Bscher, co-owner of Galerie Gmurzynska says of Duong’s work: “One can self-identify in many of her self-portraits and also still life’s. She is an incredible painter. e met at our mutual friend the photographer Jean Pigozzi’s house in the south of France.”

Duong has many themes in her work, but one is painting people she knows. That includes (but is not exclusive to) high profile celebrities and supermodels. She has painted models like Naomi Campbell, Natalia Vodianova and Karen Elson, as well as Diane von Furstenberg (her dream sitter is Hunter Shafer).

Though the artist doesn’t like to be called “a celebrity painter,” she shares the experience of having Susan Sarandon and Anjelica Huston sit for her.

“Portrait of the artist,” 2010, Oil on canvas, artwork by Anh Duong

Galerie Gmurzynska

Do you know Susan Sarandon and Anjelica Huston, two celebrities who you have painted?

Anh Duong: The first time I met Anjelica Huston was at an art opening in Los Angeles, we naturally were drawn to each other and started talking. I met Susan Sarandon through common friends. When I started the series of portraits of actresses, they were both my first choice as they are iconic in their own right. 

I was first interested in painting them both because, to me, they already look like paintings. Aside from their timeless beauty and femininity, I wanted to portray what was going on behind their gaze which seemed mysterious to me, and what set them apart from just being beautiful women.

What is it like having the stars sit for you in a portrait session?

When Anjelica first arrived at my atelier, I was struck by her vulnerability. It has rarely been shown in films, as she is often cast as a very powerful character. I saw a mix of strength and fragility, which makes a great actor and I wanted to portray that. When both Susan Sarandon and Anjelica Huston sat for me, I was so impressed how they could give all of themselves without any self-consciousness that one would expect.

They’re movie stars!

They’re movie stars. But they pose as if no one is watching, as if there is no distance between the sitter and the artist. And that is what, in my opinion, makes a great subject. Because their inner life is available. I can really see why they have been so successful in their field and why so many great directors have been working with them.

What is the art of the painted celebrity portrait?

I never liked the word “celebrity” or consider myself a celebrity painter. It is not about what they represent. I guess the public tends to like in a portrait someone they might recognize or admire but for me, it is the opposite. I want to forget who they are and capture the humanity and bring them closer to us by sharing their inner life. Bringing something to the forefront that we don’t know but recognize. A feeling that we may share. A portrait is the beginning of a love story where one can be intimate knowing nothing will be consumed.

What side of you does this current exhibition show?

The side that you don’t see. Whether it is considered socially unacceptable or too vulnerable, the side that I don’t even know about myself is revealed through the process of painting a self-portrait. I believe creating art comes from the subconscious. When I paint it is revealed to me I am informed by my paintings, not the other way around.

What do you love about creating a self-portrait?

I have painted self-portraits as a diary of an inner dialogue. They are an ongoing narrative, a record of a psychological journey. A self-portrait is more than a fixation of the memory, it is a conversation with self-reflection. I have painted self-portraits on a daily basis as a form of diary. I paint because I can’t say it another way.

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