‘Saving Faces’ – Mark Gilbert

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(All images belong to mark Gilbert, find more here; http://www.markgilbert.co.uk/index.php?/project/saving-faces/)

Grotesque; and surprisingly beautiful, this series of works by Contemporary painter Mark Gilbert explores the lives of people with facial deformities, and their journeys through plastic surgery in order to achieve a better, fuller life. Often, these subjects are stricken with facial tumours, which protrude out of the skin upon the face; stretching and distorting the features. This series of three paintings is what interested me the most out of the entire body of work though; the blunt nature of the paintings, bloody and quite grotesque, showcase the soft and delicate innards within our bodies. Tumours however, are often hard, callous objects, almost indeterminately alien amongst the softer tissues it is spawned from. This is such an interesting juxtaposition between the two forces at work here, and it is evident within the painting’s focal points of the flesh and the hard, blunt tumour under the left eye. These paintings make me feel at once uncomfortable, questioning the thin boundary separating the inside of my body from the outer world.Disease permeates this thin layer, but the disease of Cancer bursts forth from the inside of the body. It is like espionage, it injects itself into the body, hides away and incubates until it can destroy the body from the inside.

The colours are so beautiful, rich and deep reds, pinks and yellows that evoke a sense of meat and bone unlike that of the human body. The aspect of the body as meat; as a vehicle for death and hunger, is exhibited through the simplification of our complex and distinct bodily systems as nothing more than clumps of meat struck upon bone. Red; the colour of power, of life and of blood, and the stalwart paled yellows of the tumours and bones; yellow is often associated with serenity, but is so easily sullied, that a dirty yellow is so often associated with grime and disgust, almost sulphuric in nature. Disease is so disgusting to us because of it’s infectious nature; but how can we run from something that is birthed from within?

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