Truth is a concept it is interesting to highlight in the discussion of art.  Should attempting to unveil the truth be the goal – or should it be the exact opposite, telling beautiful lies, so the art is turned into the polar contradiction of reality. Is reality synonymous with truth at all?

The portrait as art-genre has a long ancestral history where the expressions are characterized by different intentions and purposes. The painting portrays a human being, an individual. But how difficult is it to not talk about the essence of a human being – or the “true portrait”?

The french philosopher Roland Barthes attempted to recognize his late mother in a photography and states in his book Camera Lucida; “I recognized her differentially, not essentially. The photograph forced me to do a painful work. In my attempt to reach the most inner part of her identity, I had to confront images that were only partially true, which ultimately made them all false.”

“ The final revelation is that Lying,
the telling of beautiful untrue things,
is the proper aim of Art.”
Oscar Wilde
Intentions, 1913

He searches for the truth about the face he had once loved, and finds it in a photograph of her mother when she was five years old. “In this childhood image, I saw the goodness which from the beginning and forever had shaped her being.”

When we meet with a portrait, we naturally seek for the eyes of the portrayed. In Charlotte Engelhaarts portraits, we see them as we are looking through a veil. The surface is divided into brushstrokes, which our minds comprehends and puts together into a face. We all consist of the same constituents, put together in different ways.

Engelhaarts portraits becomes a place where the lie, “the telling of beautiful untrue things” meets the expression of our fragmented essence. The lie meets the truth. Fragments meets wholeness.

Text by Art Historian Cecilie Tyri Holt
Translated by Mikael Andre Larsen