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Art

#ceramics#eyes#narrative#painting#Susannah Carson

Susannah Carson Evokes the Amorous Tradition of the Lover’s Eye Through Antique Plate Paintings

April 25, 2023

Grace Ebert

Two painted figures peer out from antique serving plates

All images © Susannah Carson, shared with permission

On vintage serving ware and ornately decorated plates, artist Susannah Carson renders fragmented portraits of women who peer out from the center of the vessels. The oil paintings evoke the Georgian tradition of the “lover’s eye,” sentimental miniatures depicting the facial features of a spouse, child, or family member often found on jewelry of the time. These tiny works would also allow the wearer to obscure the exact identity of the subject, making them ambiguous keepsakes for affairs and other clandestine activities.

For Carson, this amorous practice becomes the basis of inquiry as she imagines her lively characters, their stories, and how they connect to the history of such unconventional canvases—an avid antique collector, she’s currently working on an illustrated guide on the process, as well as a series of paintings paired with the antiques they depict. Blending past and present, her pieces highlight the unknown, whether the lineage of the vessel itself or the identity of the subject. She explains:

I’m interested in painting as not just an optical illusion, but as an illusion of life—of otherness, of richness, of engagement, of that delicate connection we have with other beings which allows us to feel, for a moment, not so alone. With compositions highlighting the gaze, these subjects tell us their stories with a single look and ask for us to tell them our stories in return, thereby creating—unlike the alienation of much modern art—a welcoming intimacy.

Carson will soon release a series of works combining coveted Staffordshire dog figurines and painted portraits, which you can watch for on Instagram. Shop originals and prints on her site.

Individual eyes peer out from seven dinner plates decorated with primarily red patterns

Two images, both of eyes peering out from antique dinnerware

A fragment of a portrait peers out from antique dinnerware

Four eyes peer out from antique dinnerware

Two images, both of eyes peering out from antique dinnerware

Four eyes peer out from antique dinnerware

#ceramics#eyes#narrative#painting#Susannah Carson

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