Anne Forest (1983, Dutch/American, born in Alkmaar, The Netherlands, studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the Royal Academy of Art, living and working in Utrecht):
When I was a child my parents would bring me to the Russian-orthodox church every Sunday. Our house was filled with icons. The impression these works made on me then is evident in the graphic style I employ today in which every line is holy and depth is irrelevant to create my portrait-like depictions of people and creatures. Similar to iconography, I try to evoke in the viewer a need to connect with these figures.
These deep-rooted impressions have also led to my interest in naïve, primitive and outsider art and Renaissance portraiture. Besides these inspirational wells to draw from, a natural inclination towards found and unconventional material form the base of my work. I feel a strong need to claim material by repurposing it. Yet in doing so I honor it with the time-consuming task of committing my rigid visual imagery to the coarse and unpredictable fiber of a carpet, the grain in an old wooden panel, the creases in a piece of cloth. By combining the static with the tactile, the inward struggle that drives me as an artist becomes visible: a fear to connect, yet constantly reaching out to be touched.
I'm an atheist, so it took a long time before I accepted how much iconography has shaped me as an artist. Since that acknowledgement I've not only taken to studying icons as an art-form, but I am also intrigued by the relationship that can take shape between the religious viewer and the sacred subject presented in the icon. When that validation is bestowed by the viewer the artwork itself becomes sacred in its own right, an object that comforts, a talisman. With each work I create I strive to awaken similar - albeit more earthbound - impulses in the viewer; you want to touch it and have it near you and build a relationship with it that is unique and personal. A recent interest in making three-dimensional work is therefore not wholly surprising, as I want to encourage the viewer to experience a work as its own entity. Something they can hold on to.
Marc Mulders, January 2017:
"Anne Forest makes intriguing paintings of human-like animals and animal-like humans: paintings, that is, of ourselves, portraits of what it means to be human.
Her work reflects the way we behave within the various spheres of innocence and foolishness, but also those of seduction and manipulation. As an artist, she creeps into the mixed psyche of man and beast in the best tradition of allegory and fable. Her paintings are not only splendid and enticing in terms of their brushstrokes, but they are also enticingly manipulative and disturbing in the grimace and gaze that greets us as viewers.
I am extremely fond of German artists like Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach, and Forest’s work reminds me of Cranach. Forest studies the work of the Old Masters, the poses of seventeenth-century aristocrats. There the focus is very much on the ‘intimidating look’ of the person being portrayed and on his status, depicted in a somewhat artificial pose, the purpose being to extort the intended ‘win factor’ from the viewer. In the work of Anne Forest, however, this intimidating look of the person being portrayed is replaced by a timid glance; there is often a shynesseven a woundedness to be discerned ... it is indeed an ‘ecce homo’ for 2017.
In terms of brushstrokes her work is a kind of ‘Expressionism at rest’. It is certainly expressive, not so much in the classical sense of a brushstroke as a ‘wildly executed gesture’ but a brushstroke whose well-considered, methodical approach exudes a tranquillity that actually contributes to an oppressive atmosphere."