The Patterned Pathologies Of Sascha Braunig’s Portraits

Canadian artist Sascha Braunig paints portraits, technically speaking, yet we never actually see her subjects. Wrapped in raucous patterns and colors, their uncanny faces hint at a commentary on the psychology of identity.

Braunig, who got her MFA from Yale and now works in Portland, Maine, is an immensely talented painter, capable of incredible photorealism. But she chooses to blanket her subjects with patterns and colors instead, rendering them nearly unrecognizable. The resulting portraits are uncanny, showing humans alternately isolated from and exposed to the audience.

Most of Braunig’s paintings feature a decidedly female bust looking straight at the viewer–or, so we imagine. In one painting, her gaze is concealed behind a suctioned zig-zag bag, trussed with neon strings, as though she’s covered herself intentionally. In another, her visage peels away in thick strands to reveal an empty skull cavity. Several lovely and hypnotic video projects replicate the effect in stop motion, and deserve to be watched, granted you don’t have a phobia of nuns (in which case: do not click on that link).

From one angle, Braunig’s uncanny style invokes Surrealism, from another, Baroque decorations. “The works’ ruffles, masks, hairstyles, and makeup push adornment into a parallel universe of body morphing and new life forms,” write the curators of her upcoming solo show at Foxy Production. “Mixing angst, elegance, and humor, Braunig appropriates the techniques of historical portrait painting.”

The paintings may look drug-induced, but according to Braunig, they’re anything but. “That’s not my lifestyle,” she tells Vice. But then again, she concedes, “I want the viewers to be in a heightened state when they’re viewing, and obviously I can’t control what that state entails for each person. So I guess you could say it’s like a trip.”

Her second solo show at Foxy Production opens on January 12.