In a world where we are bombarded with images of what the “perfect” body should look like, it’s easy to get caught up in a never-ending cycle of self-criticism. For many years, the concept of body positivity has been promoted as a way to counteract this culture by promoting self-love. But even this can lead to toxic positivity. In recent years, a new movement has emerged to balance it all out—“body neutrality.”
While it shares some traits with body positivity, body neutrality takes a more sustainable approach to nurture a healthy relationship with the body. The idea behind body neutrality is to shift focus from appearances by totally removing physical appearance as a criterion for self-worth. It reminds us that we don’t need to love our bodies every second of the day.
From her hugely successful pet portraits to now profound figurative work, art world newcomer Roxanne Ricohermoso mounted her first solo exhibition “Fragments” at SuperDuper gallery. Showcasing adeptness with technique and conceptual experimentation, Roxanne Ricohermoso took a risk by experimenting with a new style of nude art. Her series portray the body in an empathetic way, emphasizing a different meaning of “sensuality”—not sensual in a suggestive way, but literally grounding into the five senses, as both model and artist focus on what they can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.
Through a collaborative process with a figure model, her subject self-shoots in curated poses, as she moves into her senses, expressing what appeals to her in that moment. Her body is unextraordinary and normal, breaking the usual categorical choices of commercial photography. Some poses show the model grasping bulges of the stomach. Neither pretty nor ugly, Ricohermoso explores this process with the model:
“For the model, she is doing these poses – moving into her senses and feeling what appeals to her to do and what she’s trying to express. It’s being honest with what she’s feeling and that somehow translates to me.”
Ricohermoso takes after the style of figurative Neoclassical works in the 19th century. But she adds a 21st-century twist by zooming in, presenting just fragments of the subject. Her technique is not totally hyperrealistic but picks up from impressionism in the way she plays with the light and removes the stiffness of anatomy.
While the model absorbs from the environment, Ricohermoso does so too. She paints from how what she senses from her environment as an artist, especially in the solitude of the process. Whenever she has a project, she plays a single track on repeat. For her first solo exhibition, “Fragments” it was the slow, sultry RNB beat of “Real Deal” by J Warner, Maths Time Joy, and Sinead Harnett. The song on-loop was meant to fill the canvas with the tune’s same soul.
From her pet portraits to joining group exhibitions internationally, the artist has experienced great success in a short time. But her career took the long way to get where it is today.
While Roxanne Ricohermoso has enjoyed drawing and the arts since she was a kid, she studied to be a pharmacy graduate, then worked for a drug importer and in the hospital as a healthcare professional. Later, she distanced herself from the healthcare industry and a little bit closer to art, through work doing product shoots and photo styling for big-name food clients and media. She found herself going back to healthcare again and on a whim, moved to Davao to specialize in pharmaceuticals studies. It was here where she felt herself constantly drawn to visit a nearby gallery, where unbeknownst to her she would meet the person who would be her mentor, SuperDuper gallery owner and artist Alfred Galvez.
In 2019 she became an apprentice at Galvez Atelier, studying classical drawing and alla prima oil painting. She remembers the many murals she painted. To learn more techniques, she enrolled in online workshops with international artists like Michael Britton, Jennifer Genari, Ramon Hurtado, and Alex Venezia. In 2021 she attended a formal mentorship program with Alfred Galvez, where she later exhibited her first figurative nude paintings.
While her career is relatively fresh, Roxanne shows signs her oeuvre is on its way to more evolution.
“Before I was just like, I want to make something pretty. Then later, I thought, let’s get more into it. What if I dive into more new ideas?”
She pulls out a book by photo curator William Ewing, “The Body: Photographs of the Human Form.” Its cover shows a woman whose body is obscured by black cloth – the only points that are visible are her pursed lips, the space between her chest, and a single flexed leg.
We look over her artwork again. “There’s an intensity to it but still soft. I think the feminine side is still there. Later I want to paint male and other genders but this is closer to me now as a female.”
As Roxanne Ricohermoso paints volumes of skin, she likens the process to sculpting. Her fascination with flesh and nakedness highlights the organic parts of the female body by emphasizing elements like outlines and shapes. Ricohermoso makes sure the bits of human flesh are never objectified, but made profound, showing a story that is both vulnerable and free of judgment.
The first solo exhibition of Roxanne Ricohermoso opened on March 12, 2023 at SuperDuper Gallery, Quezon City.