After a busy few months of frantic painting, framing, photographing and perfecting, I am pleased to say that I can finally share a few new pieces that I have created recently. You may recognise a few, but with new frames and images, I wanted to share the new pieces and a little bit about each one… enjoy.
Piano, Acrylic on Canvas, 100 x 120cm (Unframed), 2019
My painting practice is concerned with how we, as a contemporary society, relate to the body. Using imagery from social media, personal archive, publicly submitted imagery, pornography, film and pop culture, I crop, stylise and re-situate images of the body to inhabit a space which blurs the line between figurative and abstract painting. Piano is a piece which explores the body as a landscape, using unconventional or unrealistic colours to depict the tone and shapes created by the reclined female figure. The source of this figurative observation was a discussion around the recontextualisation of pornographic imagery; I took photographs fromPlayboy and Mayfair archive, cropping out details which could give away their intended use and origin, and found that in many instances, the poses employed by the models reflected poses used in life drawing and figurative fine art. I became fascinated with these mirrored poses and began to explore the depiction of the female nude from ‘explicit’ sources, using colour and the simplification of the bodies’ landscapes to locate the pornographic image within contemporary painting.
By employing unconventional colours and tones – influenced by the likes of Celia Hempton and Helen Beard – I hope to present the figure through an abstracted or distorted lens, which not only amplifies the recontextualisation of the nude body, but also encourages a lingering viewership, while the audience attempts to decipher the blue and yellow hues and rib cages and limbs, despite their removal from representational colour.
Look Back, Acrylic on Canvas, 76 x 76cm (Unframed), 2019
My most recent practice has been a continuation of my interest in exploring the de-contextualisation of pornographic or ‘explicit’ material. In cropping and stylising these images I hope to reframe the female nude outside of conventional voyeurism and encourage an awkwardness in viewing the painted body from an unknown provenance. Look Back is one of the more obviously pornographic works in this collection, however once again I have employed the crop to remove the genital area – a signifier of pornographic imagery– however the pose of the subject is (unlike Piano) much less conventional of a painted body, and as such suggests that these images and compositions are appropriated from an unknown source: potentially causing an unease in viewing them without knowing the ‘appropriate’ reaction. This unease and unawareness is of particular interest in my work; the notion of contemporary art viewership where we strive to ‘know’ or ‘understand’ a piece is often engulfed by our desire to identify its subject. This concept, which links to my fascination with pareidolia and influenced viewing is epitomised within these works, and Look Back is the potential signifier amongst other works that these paintings, while figurative, abstract and stylised all in one, are discussing provenance, gaze and context, as well as the body and its’ form.
Skin, Acrylic on Canvas, 100 x 100cm (Unframed), 2019
The colourful works I create intend to explore the viewer/painting relationship, recognisability, abstraction, and discuss the significance of the body in contemporary society. Particularly in my investigation into recontextualisation and the depiction of ‘explicit’ imagery, I have found that the cropping process has become an integral part of my work, and often the most key stage in the conception of my paintings. Skin exemplifies the way in which my cropping process can completely reframe the intended focal point of an image, hence altering its’ context, viewership and the intended reaction or use of this image. By focusing in on the shoulder, neck and lower face of the subject – despite the subject being nude – we begin to associate this work with portraiture. I hope that by removing the most distinctive features of the subject, both in the face and body, the viewer will not only view the recontextualised image with complete unawareness of the original source or intention, but also consider figurative work outside of conventional life/portrait painting, where either the body or the face takes precedent.
Untitled (Cat Cow), Acrylic on Canvas, 76 x 76cm (Unframed), 2019
My interest in the presentation of bodies within contemporary society stemmed from an intrigue in the contextualisation of nudity on social media and public platforms. Movements like #freethenipple and Instagram’s recent censorship of painted nudity sparked my interest in the idea of context, the sexualisation or explicitness of particular body parts and the disparity between the reception of female and male nudity in the public media sphere. Untitled (Cat Cow) is a painting based off a pornographic image found on social media; despite the strict restrictions on imagery which shows female nipples, genitals or frontal nudity, many social media platforms are still rife with content which would be deemed explicit by many, however because of the specifications of direct nudity, images such as the source for this piece remain ‘appropriate’. As such, this piece again explores the idea of context and viewership, with the original intention of this image to be arousal or visual pleasure, then the image being shown on a social media platform, and then appropriated to exist within the contemporary painting world, we can see the development of context, meaning and viewership through the development of a single images lifespan.
Sporty Girl IV, Acrylic on Canvas, 100 x 120cm (Unframed), 2019
Colour has always been an integral element of my painting practice, in some works I have experimented with entirely unrealistic colour, pushing my subjects to the boundaries of figures, where they instead become patterns, landscapes, or glitched images, however often, I find the most interesting colours to employ are those true to life, but stretched in vibrancy, tone and depth in one direction or the other. Sporty Girl IV is often referred to as ‘the orange one’ and I’m sure this needs no explanation. Taking the colours of the source image, I delved into appropriation and reproduction techniques to explore possible palettes for the painting. The resultant work is a bold, vibrant piece which once again explores the landscape of the body, while also shows the admittance of medium, through the visible layering of paint splatters, brush strokes, drops of ink and delicate lines. In addition to the shapes and patterns within the subjects’ figure, the bright off-white area which intersects the torso also shows the use of image reproduction in my creative process, hence I intend for the painting to discuss the presentation of pornographic imagery and examine reproduction and appropriation where these seemingly random light overlays portray areas of light created through photocopying and flash re-photographing.
Natalie VII, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 80cm (Unframed), 2019
In painting figures – although different to portraiture in what is seemingly a less personal and more objectifying artists lens – I often find myself considering the inhabitants of the bodies I paint, particularly in working with pornographic and ‘explicit’ material. When working with imagery from dated print editions of Mayfair, I was intrigued by the inclusion of – obviously fabricated – information about the model and became intrigued by the idea of a muse being a porn magazine model. As such I embarked on a series of works based on one particular model: ‘Natalie’, creating a collection of pieces which explored one particular figure. While still employing my cropping and stylising process, painting the same body, but differently posed or in states of undress, made me consider the painter/subject relationship in a whole new way. Just as the relationship between the creator of the original image and the subject will have been different to the relationship between the subject and the original intended viewer – both in intended use and notions of gaze and objectification – by appropriating this image through paint, I – the new creator – am imposing upon the new viewer an appropriated intention, reading and relationship, which I hope will once again discuss the significance of context within the creation and viewing of nude imagery, be it painted or photographed.