Rebecca Fortnum’s A Mind Weighted with Unpublished Matter marks a development in the history of portraiture, raising questions about the relationship between sitter and painter, issues of authority and control as well as social attitudes around gender.
Working from photographs of nineteenth century sculptures of women, Fortnum’s source material allows for continual extended returns to elusive objects, a type of close, careful looking that leads the artist towards the depiction of every surface detail.
This is a rumination on how representation is mastered; on the ‘accomplished’, intrinsically feminine status of the copy of the work of art in comparison to its ‘inventive’, ‘ingenious’ original, wrought by male hands: a critique of a value-laden history that is inherently masculine, and copying as a submissive, secretive other.
Fortnum’s transcriptions strive for a form of reduplication that creates a space for difference and subtle deviations to ask what other singular likenesses might emerge through the task of copying within the legacy of women artists’ thwarted ambitions.
In essence, Fortnum’s works engage with her female portraits’ sources in a conversation across time and space, through the creation of intimate and empathetic cross-temporal facsimiles that reflect the sexed connections between reproduction, training and accomplishment.