The Potential for Movement

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‘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. 

Muscular Awareness Part 1

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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! 

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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!

Exposed (Working Title) Series


One of the things I love most about making art is that I constantly surprise myself. If you had told me three years ago that I would be doing a shoot like this I would have laughed in your face. Why? Because it involved getting totally naked in front of someone who was not a lover! Well, ok not totally naked in the sense they saw everything, but the only barrier between myself and them was a beautiful piece of material.


Prior to the shoot I was slightly nervous and self-conscious at the thought of stripping down. However once we started it felt like the most natural thing in the world. It wasn’t embarassing or awkward, it was purely about making the art. And I loved it! It was a very liberating experience for me and really allowed myself to loosen up about my body. It also added a new dimension of thought for me to contemplate in my art. 


Sadly in a lot of cases, once you get naked for art that is all your art is suddenly about. That’s all the person reads when viewing it. Which I think is tragic as there’s obviously so much more to it then that. Of course I’m not saying that’s always the case, or that everyone does it. I just know a lot of people do. So let’s look past the nudity and more into what is actually going on here. Firstly, it’s material fascination. My friend has had this material hanging in her studio for ages and her love for it became kind of infectious for me. She was so fascinated by the colours and the way it worked in light that I started to see more and more in it every time I visited the studio. I even started liking how pink it was! It’s a very tactile material which is very appealing but also multi-sensory given the crispy, rustling noise it makes – like the wind drifting through the trees. 


So of course I started to think about the material in relation to my own body. Through it’s tactility I was already starting to engage with it, but I wanted to further this engagement. That’s when the idea of water came to me. As I mentioned in my last post, I have been thinking a lot about water and time recently and am starting to bring them into my work more. So I asked my friend, given her highly articulate understanding of this material, if she could help me capture these images. And what a perfect job she did! We used my desk lamp as a spotlight, my bath tub, her material and my body to produce these shots. It involved a lot of stretching, balance, holding uncomfortable positions and very cold bath water, but it was worth it! 


I’d explained at the beginning how and what it was I wanted to capture, and the more photos we took, the more we evolved and arrived at what it was I was after. The results are sensitive and subtly sensual, but not overly sexual. The images hint at nudity without being too overt, partly because I wanted to avoid that instant jump to ‘naked art’. You would think the contrast between such an artificial material and my skin would be harsh, but the colours of the material dance so beautifully over my skin in the light that the two almost blend together. I think the water helps this, there’s this whole question of what is wet and what is dry and I think that really enhances it. 


You know you’re doing something good when you start to get really excited about something you make. These photographs are one of those special moments, I feel these are just the tip of the iceberg and hopefully a lot more will come from them!

If Only…


I was looking through some old photos on my laptop and came across some snaps I’d taken years back at the exhibition ‘From Death to Death and Other Small Tales: Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the D. Daskalopoulos Collection’. I could kick my younger self! If only I could go back and relive this exhibition knowing what I know now! I must have been about…seventeen when I saw this? I think. So only really starting to realise the direction my art would take. This exhibition, although I did not realise it at the some, had some really big names to it. Artists such as Paul McCarthy, Mona Hatoum, Helen Chadwick, Ernesto Neto were all part of it. I have researched and studied them all since being at uni and therefore have an entirely new found appreciation for their work. 


It gets worse though. Other artist work included belonged to Marina Abramovic – one of THE innovators of performance art. One of the most prominent females in what had previously been a largely male dominated art form. One of my current main influences! Marcel Duchamp as well, one of the pioneers of the Dada movement which not only fueled Surrealism but was the platform for conceptual art. Joseph Beuys, again very revolutionary and brought about a whole new dimension and meaning to the word sculpture. 


Knowing what I know now, I could not be more frustrated by the naivety of my younger self. I was looking at revolutionary artwork by revolutionary artists and I didn’t even know it! So frustrating…The absolute worst past is that the entire exhibition is centered on the human body which is of course the subject of all my work these days. If only I could see the entire exhibition again!


I think one of the works I would be most excited to see again is the work of Ernesto Neto (above). I still remember my reaction when I walked into the room. It was not the site that struck me initially; it was the smell. He had filled his installation with a variety of spices to the point that is was almost overwhelming. Yet it was also incredibly exciting as for the first time I was experiencing multi-sensory artwork! It actually inspired me to use spices in my own work. Slight mistake given that at A Level you have to paint your final piece in two days straight. Not good when you’re using spices – I don’t think curry powder has ever given me such a headache!

The Power of The Image

186A0860_resultSometimes I think people go to too much effort to explain themselves and their work. Sometimes it’s better just to stand back and let a piece be itself. After all, isn’t this what art is all about? Allowing people to formulate their own ideas and interpretations? What kind of art are you making if it can’t speak for itself? I suppose everyone works differently and I’m not condemning any particular working method. I’m just saying you have to believe in the power of your piece. To me, these photographs don’t need any justification or explanation. However that may just be because to me they are loaded and they are current. They are part of what I’m exploring now so they carry a lot of personal connotations. 


I like to think they can stand without all that however. These in themselves are about the way the light shines and the shadow falls. The way the body bends into slightly unnatural shapes. The creases of the material and the blurring in the foreground. They don’t need the research and the meaning behind them to be beautiful. They are images that can be solely appreciated for what they are.