The one thing you should see this week: lush paintings that turn portraiture on its head (by cutting out the faces)

The one thing you should see this week: lush paintings that turn portraiture on its head (by cutting out the faces)

“Mulieribus Quinque” by Lauchie Reid (Image: Courtesy Narwhal Art Projects) 

This week’s pick: Lauchie Reid’s The World Turned Upside Down at Narwhal Art Projects

Sure, the past century hasn’t exactly been kind to the sort of classic portraits with stately, poised subjects that populate dusty European wings in art galleries (something to do with the advent of photography). But in his new show at the Narwhal, Lauchie Reid (an OCAD grad and member of the art and illustration collective Team Macho) pays homage to the neglected form and adds his own ingenious twist.

Like the portraits of Gainsborough, Franz Xavier Winterhalter and both Holbeins, Reid’s small oil paintings are rendered in lush, meticulous detail: courtiers sport velvet and breeches, decorated brigadier-generals stand at attention a quintet of swimmers model their suits. But where the works of his forebears emanate earnestness, Reid’s sparkle with audacious wit.

In his paintings, Reid warps the very thing that makes a painting a portrait: the face. His subjects’ faces are obscured—some wear red and white felt masks, others antlers or knights’ armour. The most striking images are those of stodgy men in three-piece suits whose heads have been replaced with those of foxes, fish and—in an especially creepy piece—a duck (duck heads have also replaced the man’s hands). When photography entered the game, the meticulous, grand artifice of painted portraiture was supplanted by the plain-faced honesty of the camera lens. In Reid’s clever, eye-popping paintings, those old conventions return with a vengeance—and a touch of mischief, for good measure.

The details: To November 7. Free. 680 Queen St. W., 647-346-5317, narwhalartprojects.com