Everything Matters seeks to explore the positive reciprocal exchange of power relations suffusing the South African painter Deborah Poynton’s monumental canvases. Works from 2008 and 2009 were shown at Poynton’s first exhibition in the United States. Employing Gilles Deleuze’s (1925–95) and Félix Guattari’s (1930–92) notion of a variable sensibility of power or puissance, this review suggests that Poynton’s psychologically dense portrait tableaux help create an open exchange of power, rather than a closed mode of reactive power, or pouvoir, that inherently posits dominance of one body over another. Everything Matters presents a selection of Poynton’s single- and multiple-figure paintings to address the depicted postures, expressions, and possible iconographic and historical elements in each painting, along with similar details supplied by artist and viewer, all of which convey a more egalitarian exchange of puissance. Several modes of understanding puissance in relation to the paintings are considered: the artist’s power over whom she chooses to paint, as well as the composition of the figures; the exchange of power among the people she paints and their relationship to one another; the viewers’ relationship to these life-size portraits; and ways in which the gestures of the painted figures facilitate an exchange of power. This exploration of Poynton’s work is intended not to negate one’s possible understanding of the artist’s intention of expressing a mode of dominant, reactive power but to explore an exchange of puissance inherent in the concept and visual language on offer in Everything Matters.

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