de boer, Antwerp // September 15, 2023 – November 04, 2023
One of the shows we were highly anticipating this Fall season was the Chicago-based painter Noelia Towers’ Father Figure at de boer Gallery in Antwerp. She has had our eye for a few years now, and this show is culmination of powerful topics and stunningly cinematic scope.
Tower’s newest series of highly rendered oil paintings continue to elicit a deep psychological understanding of topics such as fetish, socio and political archetypes, and trauma. The artist utilizes herself and her partner as models in most of the paintings referencing a wide oeuvre of both hyper personal histories and impersonal scenarios. Tower’s work operates not as subversive painting but as a foray into the exploration of the canvas as a form of therapy, armed with a feminine perspective and shrouded in dark and mysterious undertones.
Throughout Towers’ exhibition the male presence can be found portrayed explicitly or implicitly, seeming to exert agency upon the female counterpart looming over like a frightening shadow. In other instances, the male figure appears as kind, caring and gentle, at times their presence is implied solely through an absence. ‘The Swallow Incident’ depicts a swallow grasped tightly in one hand and a towel with oil stains in the other. This painting is inspired from the artist’s childhood, when her father rescued a small bird. Without hesitation, Towers father grabbed the bird, cradling it in his hands and with tender care delicately removed oil from its feathers. He worked meticulously, showing a level of patience and compassion that was foreign to Towers. The oil-covered swallow has become a symbol of the love and tenderness to Towers, forever connecting her to the day that she witnessed her father’s gentle touch, a reminder that he, too, was capable of caring.
Carl Jung’s concept of collective unconscious is one of many influences that Towers’ paintings reflect, specifically in reference to her use of personal histories. The idea that a shared reservoir of archetypes and symbols exist within the human psyche and transcend individual experience allows for each unique personal history to extend past herself to the emotions, relationships, and struggles that all experience. Offering not solace but something more a-kin to sodality, the confraternity or association of a Roman Catholic religious guild or brotherhood.