"Infante with a Blue Hand"
Tom Lovatt, "Infante with a Blue Hand," 2010, oil on canvas, 48” x 48”.
To contemporary eyes, there’s something sad about the intense and serious gaze of Margarita Teresa, the royal Spanish child or infanta portrayed in several famous court paintings by 17th-century artist Diego Velázquez.
In one, the eight-year-old infanta is pale, perfectly coiffed and posed in a voluminous blue dress replete with crinoline, elegant silver borders and a large lace collar that’s at sharp odds with current views about appropriate childhood attire.
It’s a painting – along with others by Velázquez – that holds a mysterious attraction for Winnipeg painter Tom Lovatt.
The infanta’s image can be found in Lovatt’s latest body of work, showing May 1 to May 30 at the Gurevich Gallery in Winnipeg, as he morphs carefully rendered passages that echo classic paintings with more diffuse passages in which the visual language is thoroughly contemporary.
The juxtapositions are powerful and Lovatt struggles to discuss his work, fearful of being reductive, of putting into words what he hopes will be a complex personal response on the part of viewers.
As much as he will allow is that the work is about the process of making art, what it means to be an artist and what art might be.
“I don’t like to be too descriptive,” he says.
Lovatt has long been interested in art history, and used various masterpieces as educational tools after graduating in 1974 from the University of Manitoba, where he says he received little training in traditional painting techniques.
But along with how artists painted, he’s also interested in how they created meaning, and how that meeaning has changed over time.
“In some ways, it’s like taking an image apart to see how it works, as if it were a clock,” he says.
His previous series have explored themes such as crucifixion, and often refer to paintings by artists such as El Greco and Antonio López García.
Lovatt’s last show at Gurevich was two years ago. It featured boxers and considered rituals of violence and perceptions of masculinity, punching outside his usual concerns.
Tom Lovatt is represented by Gurevich Fine Art in Winnipeg. His work sells for $1,500 to $5,000.