If Only…

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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. 

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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. 

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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!

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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!

Portraiture

Facial Deconstruction

During Sixth Form was when I truly realised that studying the human body was what I was interested in. I think starting life drawing had a lot to do with that, as did my sudden interest in going to the gym. For me, studying the body was necessary not only through visual observation, but also through experiencing my body’s movements. I became very interested in the work of Dr Gunther von Hagen. To me he is as much an artist as he is an anatomist. He invented the technique of plastination in the mid-1970s. This allows the human body to be fully preserved by embalming it and then draining it of all bodily fluids. Quite a disgusting and technical process (sorry for you squeamish people!) but the results are incredible. Well, to me they are, to a lot of people it’s a very controversial affair. I think I’m just fascinated by seeing a real life human body and all the bodily tissues that make us up. An almost morbid fascination. The touring exhibition BODYWORLDS visited Newcastle last year and of course I jumped at the chance to see it in real life having been reading about it from the age of fifteen! Anyway, I am getting side tracked. Basically Von Hagen was a huge influence to me during this time and the above picture is inspired by his work as well as being a blend of Emma Grzonkowski’s style.

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Above: my copy of her Grzonkowski’s work ‘Secret’.

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Above: Her original piece.

I was looking at Emma Grzonkowski’s work around the same time I was looking more in-depth at Von Hagen’s. This resulted in an interesting and complex blend of styles. Grzonkowski is a commercial artist who creates figurative pieces, she’s done a series on The Seven Deadly Sins. It’s all quite lovely and rather beautiful. Quite girly for me though so of course I had to reinterpret her piece in monochrome when I copied it. I don’t directly copy work often, but I do quite enjoy it when I do as I get a feeling for what the artist was doing. I like to think so anyway!