Arthur Marie’s first US solo exhibition, “Serenity,” presents a selection of paintings depicting shadowy, macabre figures haunted by the underbelly of digital culture. The show is centered on Marie’s ongoing “Portrait of a Young Man” series, 2021–, which features an expressionless adolescent male locked in profile. His pale visage and brunette hair are only slightly varied throughout the seven pieces here. Every so often, his sideswept ’do extends into face-concealing bangs that occasionally retreat to reveal his empty countenance. Yet his eyes consistently fail to emerge from his distended head. Always situated alone in some barren space, he is doused by a faint silvery luminescence.
The pictures recall the frail and melancholic subjects of Pre-Raphaelite painting, but this teen is of the digital era, as he appears lit by a computer or phone screen (his poor posture causes his neck to protrude, suggesting electronic device overuse). Even the artist’s canvases call to mind the dimensions of an iPhone photo, confining his subject to a digitally determined hellscape. The mutability of this boy’s features indicate he is a product of the rigorous self-curation demanded of young people today via social media. While his emo haircut and rectangular nerdy glasses in Portrait of a Young Man #4 (all works 2023) may be self-conscious decisions in identity construction, he seems to utterly lose control of himself in Portrait of a Young Man #3, as his forehead has become severely and monstrously warped.
In Commodité Sexuelle (Sexual Convenience), we see a faceless and castrated cream-colored dummy, while in Red Road a long-haired figure emerges through a ghastly blur. These uncanny humanoids appear as elevated translations of internet horror-folklore imagery—virtuosically conceived Slender Men. Just as the mediating powers of digital technologies can feel supernatural, Marie’s paintings mine the eeriness of online omnipresence into moments of semi-spiritual beauty—an occult aesthetic of a digital serenity.