I have this absolute nightmare of my tights ALWAYS getting holes in them. It drives me nuts; my toes peep out, the ladders run up the back of my leg, I don’t think I own a single perfect pair of tights! So being an artsy creative person I of course think of new ways to use them when they’re on their way out, otherwise there are far too many tights going to waste! When I did these shots, I’d recently been using cling film to cover and wrap my body in. So these photographs were kind of an extension of that experiment. Of course, wrapping your body in cling film holds very different connotations from interacting with fragile tights.
I was quite pleased with how these photographs turned out. They are completely unedited, I just used a desk lamp directed at a very certain angle to get these colour shades. Normally putting something over your head is claustrophobic and uncomfortable, but given the transparency and delicacy of the tights there were no problems at all. It was more exciting trying to develop a relationship with the material and mould it into interesting shapes that worked both within the frame of the photograph and in relation to my body. I had a tripod set up to take these, so it was all very trial and error; I only got three good photographs out of all the ones I took. That happens most of the time with photography though and the shapes I did manage to create here complemented the warm hues of the lighting.
Despite the lack of editing, the colours came out really well; they shift between pale pastel yellows and orange-tinted pinks. I was also really happy with the blend of focuses; the fixed outline of certain areas such as the head in the photo above, against softer and more ambiguous outlines as in the case of my fingers in the above. Out of all components of my torso, I think my hands looked the most interesting encased in the tights, as the fingers are usually so mobile and free to use that is was strange to see them restricted. Yet the conflict present within the restriction is interesting as the hands are encased by the most fragile material and have the ability to break free at any moment. This potential is most evident in the middle picture where my fingers are most pronounced. I also think this potential is evident in the blend of static and movement. Although I am holding still and posing for the camera, there is so much movement in the light and the material which provides an interesting contrast to the overall result. I think these aspects are why these photographs are successful to me; I’ve taken a simple everyday material and tried to adapt it into something entirely new.
‘The Potential for Movement’, Photograph, 2016
Thinking back to my images taken in the photographic studio the other week, this one in particular stood out to me. It has what I’m calling ‘the potential for movement’. There is so much kinetic energy present here, yet simultaneously none at all. It is completely still; the subject is completely static. Yet in the photograph I am on the brink of moving and creating a fluid action, but at the point the camera captured me the movement had not begun. As a viewer we know an action is about to occur and take place; as no one, despite having fantastic flexibility levels, can hold that position for long! The balance of the body in this image has so much satisfying symmetry to me. This includes the way my hands look as if they are touching my knees, when they are in fact far further forward. It also includes the shadows of my hands along the wall, the balance that my legs are holding, the light dancing across my back. It is peaceful and still but there is also so much potential. It really is a moment captured and frozen in time.
The other day my friend kindly gave me a hand in the photography studios to help me capture these images. If you have been reading my posts you will know by now that my artwork revolves around the human body. If you have never read a post this could not be more perfect an intro! More often than not my practice is about the implicit body; it relies on subtle hinting and allusions to the human form. So for once I wanted to deviate from that quite strongly and create a really direct link to the body.
As a result, these images came into existence. I have been gyming for about five years now and I absolutely love it. It is my zone, my head space. For an hour I leave the outside world behind and focus purely on the relationship between mind and body. I focus on the pain I feel, the endurance I push myself through, the tiredness and aches when I finish an exercise. I think of gyming as a discipline and it’s one I keep up as often as I can. People often underestimate the importance of stretching and often do this hurriedly and hastily. That is not the case for me. Stretching is one of the most important components of my work outs, which is probably a result of my love for yoga. So I spend a lot of time on the mats, which more often than not are in front of a mirror.
Yes, the instant connotations of a mirror mean vanity, but for me that is not the case. All of these years stretching in front of a mirror has made me notice little dents and muscles in my body that normally no one pays attention to. Because I’m stretching myself into bizarre and unusual positions, the less prominent muscles start to emerge, which I have always found incredibly fascinating. Most interesting to me are the dents and muscles surrounding my shoulder blades; there is a surprising amount of detail in this area. Up until now I have merely observed these muscular formations. Every time I see them in the gym I think about how great it would be to study them more closely. To draw them in pencil and charcoal and exaggerate them Michelangelo style. Of course, I’m not going to bring a photographer into the gym with me to document them! Not only would that draw a lot of unwanted attention but I would also probably have to fill out a whole bunch of Risk Assessments and Ethics Forms. No thanks!
So instead I thought I’d bring myself and my stretches into the studio; really highlight all these muscles through dramatic lighting. This was quite an adventurous experiment for me as it was a very explicit display of my relationship to the gym (it was also an hour of nonstop stretching for the camera – what a work out!) Yet it could not have come at a better time. Recently in uni I have been having tutorials that critique and discuss my work. They have taken a surprising turn for me as the feedback I have received is to further my exploration of the gym and this notion of head space. How funny that I thought these images were too explicit in their reference to the gym, yet that is what the tutors want to see more of? It’s my lucky day!
I quite like how the images I have posted here are essentially faceless; there’s a sense of ambiguity to them as a result. The lack of face also heightens the focus on the body. This is further highlighted by the stark black clothing (or lack of it!) against the whitened backdrop. Some incredible shadows have emerged too – perhaps I need to do some sketching of merely the shadowed areas. With this high contrast lighting, I finally get to emphasise all the little folds and creases that I have spent so long studying all this time in the gym. Artists talk about spending a certain amount of time with an artwork and sitting on it. If you think about it, I’ve been contemplating this specific work for years! So not only is it exciting to see it come to life as an artform, but it’s also a relief to finally realise and create it!