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Vanessa Prager's Dreamers

The self-taught artist uses thick oil paint to creating dripping, melting portraits of imagined yet familiar figures

by Nara Shin in Culture on 24 July 2014

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Vanessa Prager is no stranger to CH—whether she's wielding a paintbrush or a ballpoint pen over vintage music sheets, the LA-based artist always surprises with her next move. Described by Prager as "dripping, melting, fading out portraits," her newest series titled "Dreamers" ventures into unexplored territory, refining a new painting style that situates the viewer in a limbo between reality and something inexplicable. The faces of imagined figures blur into an indistinguishable collage of bright, vivid colors.

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Prager's new technique is all in the brushstroke; by manipulating very, very thick oil paint, the figures seem to jump off the wood, craning their neck into our world. As a result, the artworks end up unusually heavy. With this new manner of painting, "tons of mistakes can be made," Prager tells CH. "But the mistakes are what I kind of want. I don't want it to be perfect. There's something about the process—making it, finding its own form within itself: mistakes are welcome, and turn into not-mistakes."

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"By melting [the faces] in different ways, it's morphing into something else—but instead of going past that stage, it's just right there," she says. "I want it to be right up to the point where it's real, and on the line of where it's like a total other world." Teetering between reality and abstraction, Prager's figures are based on images in her head, rather than real people. She depicts a classic, "everybody" kind of person in the hope that viewers can see someone with whom they are somewhat familiar.

"I'm not trying to be hallucinogenic," Prager says. Instead, she wants to push the viewer to tap into their dream-like consciousness that flirts and lingers in our day-to-day lives. "This world can't be in such a real state all the time."

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While she'll be focusing on this new painting style to create pieces for an upcoming show at Santa Monica's Richard Heller Gallery in February 2014, Prager says she's interested in developing the style for sculptures and moving into the 3D realm. Her curious and adventurous mindset seemingly never ends, "Keep dreaming! Keep thinking up new things."

For more on Prager's new series, visit her website.

Images courtesy of the artist

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