In his latest series, Arcmanoro Niles carefully observes how those around him deal with heartbreak and disappointment.
Each painting considers how trauma and loss can consequentially linger within us, reverberating throughout life and affecting our relationships and interactions.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Niles continues to draw inspiration from his upbringing and his portraits are based on family members, friends, or the artist himself.
While his last body of work found his subjects depicted outside of their homes, here Niles turns to interiors. Considering our emotional attachment to place, he positions each character in a ‘safe’ space where they feel most comfortable and introspective.
Niles takes us on a room by room tour of a house filled with people in states of deep reflection, some seem aware of the viewers’ presence and meet our gaze with a challenging stare, while others appear more vulnerable with their heads bowed or turned away.
A traditionally trained painter, Niles is heavily influenced by art history, specifically history painting and portraiture. The poses of his characters and attention to light call to mind classical compositions yet Niles disrupts these standards by using a highly saturated colour palette over orange and blue grounds.
He has removed neutral colours, blacks, whites, and browns from his palette in order to demonstrate the complex skin tones of his subjects while adding a noble glow.
Niles further disrupts traditional standards through the insertion of his “seekers” – playfully outlined figures or strange amorphous creatures that represent external forces influencing his characters.
The seekers are impulsive actors, in pursuit of immediate pleasure with no concern for consequence. Often rendered in violent, self-destructive, or sexual gestures, the seekers foil the slow contemplation and seriousness of Niles’ human subjects.
Ultimately interested in personal journeys, Niles questions how and why people become the way they are. The narratives that play out here examine coping mechanisms and how people do the best they can with the tools and outlets available to them at different stages in life.
My Heart is like Paper: Let the Old Ways Die is on show at the Rachel Uffner Gallery until 28 April 2019. It's Arcmanoro's second solo exhibition at the New York space.