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In the Frame: “Numb” by Lisa Biles

28 July 2018

From the moment I walked into the museum space, Lisa Biles' painting 'Numb' stood out to me. The loneliness and look of isolation being presented in such an explicit manner shows how she not only as an artist, but as a person must have felt during her time suffering with Anorexia.

Upon my research into her work, it became clear that producing artwork had become her form of escape from the world. One thing that Biles said which stood out to me was "I chose to isolate myself and created my own world where I became powerful, victorious and in control". To me, this shows how perhaps at times in her life she might have felt out of control and powerless, producing painting such as 'Numb' may have given this somewhat back to her. The title of 'Numb' intrigues me also, numb is a word used to describe being deprived of all sensation, which could be an indicator as to how Biles was feeling at the time. 

The painting depicts a woman seated on a chair with her elbows resting on her knees, in an almost slouched position. Both the body language and facial expressions of the female alone presents us with and insight into how she is truly feeling. You can almost see the emptiness within, simply through these two elements.

Alongside this, the figure is painted on the right, leaving the other half of the canvas blank. To me, this presents the isolation she felt from society, as if she was an outcast. Biles mentioned how growing up in a society that constantly focused on body image had a large impact on her, with magazines and MTV causing her to believe she was the wrong shape, size and look. This therefore allows us to understand in more depth the reasoning behind the positioning of the figure and the emptiness of the space around her.

I find Biles' use of colour interesting too, although she still brings flesh tones through in her work, everything is very muted. This allows large emphasis on the figure and the mood presented. In my eyes, the lack of intense colour signifies how her emotions and feelings may have been muted during her fight with Anorexia. The use of white in the background allows for the model to be the focal point of the piece.

This painting definitely holds a powerful narrative to it. Biles' story may not be known by those who visit the museum and see her work, but it none the less shows someone who is feeling lonely. 'Numb' is one of many in her fascinating body of work.

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