Although this blog deals with erotic art first and foremost, I want to take a closer look at body art because it represents another category of art that shows and deals with the nude human body in a non erogenous way.
In Body Art – Part I, I want to show the work of two body painters. In Body Art – Part II, coming soon, I will show the work of a photographer and digital artist who works with the body in an unusual way.
To some people the mere sight of a nude human body is enough to bring about associations of eroticism. I recently heard about an American woman who declined to buy a sculpture of a nude woman for her house because of her “14 year old boy living in the house”. I wonder if she also bans computers and TV in her house…
The two artists I’m discussing today work on the human body, using it as their canvas and most people would recognize that kind of work as body painting. Like any other profession, body painters are a group of people, some of whom who do a mediocre job and others who do it well. But there are some painters who take their craft and elevate it to such a degree that it becomes an art form and create something outstanding.
Emma Hack is one such artist. Hack is famous for her wallpaper work and very appropriately calls herself a “skin illustrator” rather than a body painter (she is also a sculptor, photographer and multimedia artist). She creates the most wonderful and decorative images with her art form incorporating and using the human body in her images.
´Exotic Birds A – 2008´ is from her Wallpaper 2008 collection and is a superb example of Hack´s artistic skills and imminent technique.
'Exotic Birds A' – 2008 - Copyright of Emma Hack.
´Circles and Squares – 2008´ is another great piece of skin illustration from Hack. This piece makes me think of the film Terminator.
'Circles and Squares – 2008' - Copyright of Emma Hack
´Wallpaper 2 – 2005´ makes you wonder if the woman is emerging or vanishing into the wallpaper. Is she the embodiment of the silvery blue world or longing to be part of it?
'Wallpaper 2 – 2005' - Copyright of Emma Hack
But Hack´s work is by no means about superficial decorative beauty. In her collection Fragile Dolls – 2008 Hack uses her artistic talent to comment on the fragility and strength of the feminine condition by showing patchwork dolls caring for and repairing each other. Although seemingly innocent, Fragile Dolls V is interesting because the pieces nevertheless allude to the erotic. Hack plays with our perception of patchwork as a predominantly innocent female activity by showing patchwork dolls repairing each other. Yet there are subtle sub-currents of eroticism at play. Of course dolls are what little girls play with, but the word doll also carry sexual connotations. Hack´s (heart)broken dolls repair each other with needle and thread and in doing so plays out a perfect balance between female fragility and strength through support.
'Fragile Dolls II – 2008' - Copyright of Emma Hack
'Fragile Dolls IV – 2008' - Copyright of Emma Hack
Another poignant issue brought about by Hack is that of humans taking over the natural environment. In ´Evolution Crocodile – 2008´ Hack initiates a discussion about whether we are taking over the natural environment and if Australian animals in that process will begin to camouflage and eventually “disappear” within the manmade environment.
´Optimism – 2009´ from Panoramic Bodies is another example of Hack´s concern for her native natural Australian environment. In Panoramic Bodies, Hack explores the South Australian landscape, which she sees as fragile and vulnerable to both human action and inaction.
It is well worth going to visit Emma´s site and having a good explore round her various collections. To see more of Emma Hack´s work click here.
The second artist’s work I want to share with you is that of American based body painter Paul Roustan who also works with body art. Roustan received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002 and has a degree in teaching.
In ´Body Image´ Roustan uses the body of the male model as his canvas. Yet the body of the male model acts as more than just a canvas for the images of female bodies. This work represents an interaction between the real world of the male model and the art painted on his body. For me this work conjures up the thought that the female bodies represent all the girls the man has had an intimate relationship with.
In his work ´Abandoned´ Roustan has placed his model in a demolition site amongst the debris of old wood, pitted concrete walls and tin sheets. It creates an interesting tension that Roustan has chosen to use a beautiful young model as his “canvas” for showing decay and disintegration.
Here is what Paul Roustan has to say about his piece:
PR “With my piece, 'abandoned' you will be able to discover a deeper meaning if you really analyze the title, model pose, and the purpose of the body paint design closely. I consider it one of my deepest artworks. But, I don't want to spoil anything for the viewer, because I don't really think it's good for artists to spoon feed the meanings of their works. I am definitely respectful of the viewer's interpretation.”
The artist’s respect for the viewer’s interpretation is an ever-interesting subject because it revolves around understanding of the art. Like Roustan, I do not believe in spoon-feeding the viewer but on the other hand so many people do not appreciate art because they lack understanding and seek explanation. As I see it, it is my job as an art consultant to help people appreciate and understand art. I do this by explaining and pointing out some of the meanings and symbolisms that can be found in an artwork. Of course that does not mean that everything should be explained in minute detail but a starting point is important. It is also important to remember that symbols often hold widely different meaning for each individual due to culture, social upbringing and personal experiences. So with that in mind take a closer look at Roustan´s Abandoned below.
'Abandoned' Model: Tiffany - Copyright of Paul Roustan
Jellyfish is another of Roustan´s works. This image is striking in all its simplicity with jellyfish rising towards the surface. Clever use of lighting is partly what makes this a striking image but artistic ingenuity is the basis for this work.
'Jellyfish' Model: Zygore - Copyright of Paul Roustan
To see more of Paul Roustan´s work click here.
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