Celebrities are over-rated. Monique Barnett paints beautifully with technical skill and elegant design. Her large paintings are panoramic views of twisting images of beautiful people in dynamic swirls of flesh and fabric. I’m not sure that the background painting helps but it doesn’t hinder the paintings.
This is not more Pop Art about the celebrity image but the celebrity as a subject for moralizing. I don’t know who these people are, they look familiar, but the paintings are not about naming names rather about the archetypal roles that celebrities play in our lives. People may not know as much about Biblical or classical mythology anymore but they know more than they might want to about Paris Hilton and other celebrities. And it is from the stories of their lives that we create our own mythology, our own a moral theatre.
Monique Barnett writes the purpose of the images is “…not to glorify but to condemn.” (artist’s statement) The title of the exhibition, and one of the paintings, raises this moral voice – “hell bent”. This is both a reference to the physical distortion of their images in the paintings and voice of moral condemnation. The biblical references in the paintings include: “Creating Adam and Eve” and “Separation of light from darkness”. The Biblical references, the distortions, and the twisted movement all add to the baroque feel of the work.
Monique Barnett’s photographs, that are the source material for the paintings, are exhibited in the mezzanine gallery. These are made from cut out magazine images of celebrities, pinned, twisted, distorted and reflected on a model set. They are almost better than the paintings but they wouldn’t work on a larger scale like the paintings where all the pins, strings and scissor cuts would distract from the image. “Hell-bent” at Brunswick Art is close to being a great exhibition.