Known for his surrealistic portraits of elongated women with stretched oval faces and simplified features, self taught artist Troy Brooks once joked that, had he gone to art school, it would have “fixed” his work’s most defining characteristic. “One thing that used to drive me crazy was that I always made the faces too long. It was something I used to have to go back and fix in my drawings. When I began creating my own characters I decided to just accentuate it,” Brooks says.
Influenced by classic Hollywood films from the 20s, 30s and 40s particularly, the women that he paints have a timeless glamour about them, lit dramatically to give them a sense of eerie seductiveness and intensified emotion. On why he paints women, Brooks relates the subjects in his oil paintings to his own feelings and expereinces as a gay artist who was bullied as a child for being “like a girl”:
“The women in my paintings were confrontational and in charge. They had access to everything I felt was out of reach for me. They faced my fears in cryptic tableaux and conquered,” he says. Their androgyny implies their uncompromised sexual identity, where the woman is creating chaos and embracing it with courage, in Brooks words, “completely visible and not backing down.”
Brooks will be debuting a new body of work in his upcoming solo show “Veiled Hearts” at Gallery House, Toronto Canada. His show marks the first paintings in a series that portrays a haunting parade of desolate ramblers and ghostly drifters, “telling stories about the veils that obstruct intimacy.” The “veiled hearts” has a history in the bible: apostle Paul referred to the Jews of his time as having a “veil over their hearts”, the veil of unbelief, preventing them from seeing the truth of salvation. In art and literature, the veil is especially associated with women, who wore them as protection from the eyes of sinful men.
His fashion-forward mavens are typically depicted wearing veils, through which they gaze at the viewer with sultry stares and a glint of their inner mixed emotions. In his painting “Howling”,for instance, a veiled mistress stands in front of a burning piano as a single tear rolls down her mascara-stained cheek- piano burning began as a tribute to fallen airmen in World War II, and has since become a ceremonial practice. Like modern versions of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani’s figures, Brooks’ portrayals of women are not overly dreamlike or unreal, but aim to serve as a lyrical device to accentuate their narrative. Where his earlier subjects have been classified as she-devils and even satanic, here, the artist seems to offer an explanation in defense of the havoc that they create. “Veiled Hearts” will open at Gallery House, Toronto Canada on April 16th, 2016.