III.17 Fantasy ﬁgures
Fantasy ﬁgures are works of art where a human subject is presented up close to the viewer. They may be based on an actual person, but unlike a portrait, the objective is not to capture a distinct likeness. Instead these paintings experiment with pose, expression, costume and painterly effects. Contextual details are eclipsed by the immediacy of the person: the turn of the head, the arch of a brow, a smile or grimace. By artful persuasion or apparent disregard, fantasy ﬁgures elicit the viewer’s curiosity, complicity or desire. Artists found a liberating outlet in this type of informal study since they were unconstrained by the requirements of a commission. What originated in the studio found favour with buyers, who appreciated the beauty and mystery of these ‘heads’ as well as their close connection with the artistic process. Primarily through
the work of Melissa Percival, fantasy ﬁgures are starting to be recognized as an important phenomenon in European painting; central to its objectives are the artist’s expressive freedom and the frank exploration of human emotions.