pareidolia păr″ī-dō′lē-ə (n.): The perception of a recognizable image or meaningful pattern where none exists or is intended, as the perception of a face in the surface features of the moon. (Merriam-Webster, 2020)
The portrait is a genre whose nature has metamorphosed through time. The earliest recorded portraits date as far back in history as ancient Egypt, and the function of this artistic tradition has metamorphosed over generations, movements, and eras. Before the advent of photography, portraits were proof of life; that this individual existed, and that this was their likeness. Portraits were used by historical figures as instruments of power, asserting dominance and moral virtues over those viewing. On the other hand, the portrait has also been used as a platform for subversion, critique, and counternarratives.
This realized will to become a subject of art is an act of agency. The past century has seen the portrait integrate itself further into society in terms of technology. The photographic portrait has become proof of identity, and the proliferation of social media and self-portraiture has given the viewing public a heightened sense of what it means to become an image. The individual once preceded the portrait; but in the present, the portrait often precedes the individual.
Such is the contemporary state of affairs that surrounds the literal depiction of a face. Beyond distinct visual characteristics, a portrait can illuminate a certain inner sanctum of the self that one many not even be privy to. Perhaps it is instinct to see faces where there once were none, and art is an avenue for this to come to fruition. Pareidolia, presented by Galerie Roberto, reckons with the portrait today: what it can be, and what it is capable of. — DCB