Reisha Perlmutter’s paintings are poetic explorations of the female body’s relationship with water. Few artists can parallel Reisha’s ability to portray both stillness and movement so fluently, to hold onto a transient moment and instil it with a sense of permanence. Understanding the female body in a renewed and considered way, Reisha’s art captures scenes of great intimacy and freedom.
Reisha’s Process & Development
Reisha’s paintings give weight to the liberating quality of water and its ability to transform us whilst simultaneously connecting us with our bodies. Reisha began portraying scenes of women in water after her own experience of water’s cathartic properties. Whilst recovering from an injury, Reisha discovered how moving and floating in water released her from pain and allowed for moments of deep introspection and meditation. From this point on, Reisha began her exploration of woman’s relationship with water.
Although often considered a ‘hyperrealist’ artist, Reisha’s style isn’t hyperreal at all, in fact it consists of energetic brushstrokes and dappled patterns of light, thus adhering to a more gestural approach. This textural quality is not something that can necessarily be noticed when initially viewing her paintings from a distance, and instead relies on a closer, more intimate observation of Reisha’s art to appreciate its gestural abstraction.
Paintings such as Plexus, Sky and Luna demonstrate how Reisha uses quick, bold and decisive brushwork to give her paintings a dynamic temperament. As well as differentiating Reisha’s work from the illusion of a photograph, this abstract quality rejects any sense of sharpness, and in turn softens the body into the water, giving each piece a whimsical tone.
There has always been a strong alignment between women and nature in art, but water offers a whole new perspective. No longer is woman depicted as an embodiment of nature, nor is nature used as a motif to accentuate traditional aspects of ‘femininity’. Instead, Reisha reinvigorates woman’s relationship with nature and explores just what it means to be a woman.
Reisha grants her subjects with a tangible sense of independence and in doing so denies the outdated correlation between woman’s nudity and sexuality. Reisha’s subjects redefine the idea of femininity, elevating it to an empowered display of scars, stretch-marks and tattoos on an array of body shapes.
Reisha’s subjects are not created to act as symbols, they are not non-specific looking, but instead are portraits of real women. Each painting reveals the unique idiosyncrasies of women’s appearances to create authentic images of the female experience.
Reisha herself considers there to be something ‘almost womb-like’ about bodies moving and floating in water. The image of a nude woman enveloped in water is so intimate that it becomes otherworldly. The water separates the figure from human vulnerabilities and complexities that surround being nude, she becomes held in place, carried and cushioned by water. These moments of freedom capture a new sense of beauty in the connection between women and their bodies.
It seems fitting that so many of these intimate paintings should be self-portraits. “I am the most available model I know”, Reisha has previously stated, however this is not the only driving force behind her choice of subject. In these intricate and emotive paintings of women, Reisha focuses purely on representing the body as she sees it, from the curve of the leg, to the movement of the hair, to the shape of the face. In observing each photograph objectively, Reisha disassociates herself from her body, from how she believes herself to look, and instead paints it as if she were painting a stranger.
No longer restricted by preconceived notions surrounding her appearance, Reisha removes her own identity from the physicality and biology of her body to reconnect with herself.
Water and Light
In each and every one of her paintings, Reisha maintains an impeccable attention to light. Not only does she capture the movement of water in response to the body, she also demonstrates a clear understanding of how light falls on water. Light allows Reisha to capture the expression of the face, the movement of muscles, and the presence of water. In Luna, for instance, Reisha pays particular attention to water as seen from below, whereas in Waihane, Reisha captures a moment where the woman is both in and out of water, thus light falls on the body in different ways. Whether observed from above or below water’s surface, Reisha adapts her process to honestly depict the way in which light responds to water, and water responds to the body.
So much of Reisha’s skill lies in capturing these moments, in immortalising them and giving them permanence. She takes scenes and images that are ever-changing and holds onto them to present the power and beauty that lies within intimacy.