Women in Art: It's all in the detail

By Lauren Treiser It’s hard to believe that artist, Natasha Bieniek, who is an upcoming star in the art world, is so young (even younger than me) and has achieved so much already. Last year, she won the $50,000 Metro Art Award and was placed runner up for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. She was also a finalist for the Archibald Portrait Prize in 2012. I attended her opening at Dianne Tanzer Gallery and was even lucky enough to meet the artist.

Scarlet, 2012 Oil on wood 15 x 20cm

Born in 1984 in Melbourne, Natasha Bieniek has been painting for ten years. Bieniek started her formal training at the VCA in 2002 where she began to concentrate on figurative painting.

The scale of the paintings are the first thing that caught my eye when walking into the gallery. The miniature portraits force the audience to get up close and personal with the work to study the detail. The size of the paintings are relevant to the way most of us view images today. In contemporary culture so much of what we see is miniaturized on our iPhone and iPad. So Bieniek’s work references both the digital era as well as historical miniature portraits before photography was invented. Historically, miniatures were kept of loved ones around ones neck and close to the heart. In Bieniek’s latest series the protagonists are her friends. By sharing these with us she is letting people in "so they feel as though they're witnessing events through a key hole", she said.

Magenta, 2012 Oil on wood 15 x 20cm

Bieniek’s series is a departure from previous work which were self portraits. She hangs brightly features her friends in their own spaces. The artist does not direct what her sitters should do and rather photographs them in their natural environment. She then paints with oils using the photos as references. The detail is so small that the prerequisites must be a lot of patience and a very tiny brush! Each piece features a woman lying on, under or partly covered by material. The material is painted so perfectly that the work could almost be mistaken for a photograph.

Hazel, 2012 Oil on wood 10 x 15cm

Bieniek said that she places as much emphasis on the material and objects around the sitters than the sitters themselves. No one of the subjects has greater importance. To me, the women look a little bit lost or forlorn, but the artist has previously stated that she likes to keep the works open for interpretation.

Rose, 2011 Oil on wood 15 x 20cm

Each work takes an average of one month to complete.  The work is so small but in fact has such a big impact that it is really important to see these in real life (and not on the computer or iPhone).

The Sisters, 2012 Graphite¸ carbon and charcoal on paper 43 x 56cm

Becc Orszag is also exhibiting at Dianne Tanzer with her first solo exhibition. Her drawings are full of trickery and manipulation. She is evidentially a skilled draughtsman. Her work is full of kooky realism with references to instruction manuals and Russian communist posters all in a strange mix of landscape, portrait and performance.

The Test Pool, 2012 Graphite and carbon on paper 43 x 56cm

Both exhibitions' works are full of detail so take your time when viewing them and enjoy!

All images courtesy the Artist and dianne tanzer gallery + projects 

Natasha Bieniek: She hangs brightly Becc Orszag Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects 20 October - 17 November 108 - 110 Gertrude Street

Lauren is graphic designer and founder of patchyrugs.com.au. She loves all things design (see her blog at blog.ilovelollies.net) and is particularly passionate about fine art, interior design and jewellery. Lauren is currently studying Gold & Silversmithing and doing graphic design on a freelance basis.