River Coelho’s emotionally charged paintings may initially grab the viewer’s attention with a grotesque quality, reminiscent of some of his favorite artists, such as Francis Bacon and Egon Schiele.
Similar to these artists, his work is about the human condition. The continuous dark outlines forming the figures’ faces look like a diagram of the human muscular system, where the skin is omitted to see the connective tissue underneath. It reminds us of our physiological commonality. What are we without our faces?
However, the expressions rendered in River’s paintings are soft and self-conscious, and there is a sense of humor in their direct gaze. The pastel palette brightens their startling faces. Without the masks we present to the world, our soul is exposed, and that soul is what makes us who we really are.