A02 // Boundaries
Today I will be talking about my A02 project, ‘Boundaries’, in which I feel I truly found and dedicated to a practice I love and am passionate about. . . For this project we were set the task of questioning the term ‘boundaries’ ; Something that indicates a border or limit.
Immediately I was excited by the idea of looking at pushing social boundaries. Thinking about artists such as Egon Schiele and Jenny Saville it was clear to me from the introduction of this project that I would be looking at portraiture and/or a form of life drawing.
Egon Schiele has always been a favourite artists of mine and my knowledge about his life and portfolio of brash human forms, i believe, is reasonably vast. He was once quoted in a letter to his uncle in 1911, to say “I shall go so far that people will be seized with terror at the sight of each of my works of ‘living art’”.
An artist, well known for distorting the physical vision of the human form, I felt at the beginning of this project that I had already adopted a similar style to his when drawing the human form, and this only drove me to focus on the naked body further.
In previous projects I had questioned in depth the idea of ‘What is Beauty?’ in which I aimed to challenge and change how western society, perceives beauty and how we measure our own bodies. Loosely developing on this idea, I began to approach this project thinking about social taboos, such as erotic film and pornography, along side the idea of being comfortable in our own skin. Starting by creating this simple Lino print and printing onto pornographic magazines.
Very early on in this study, I decided to use myself as my subject. This was not only the most easily accessible form to draw from, but I felt that by choosing this route I would also be able to show an emotional connection and response to my artwork, thinking about the idea of challenging how comfortable I am, or was, in my own skin.
I quickly began to spew out self portraits from photographs of myself and from drawing from my reflection, generally focusing on the work of Schiele and Auguste Rodin, another great artist who I admire and one who spent his life dedicated to the human form.
At this point in this project I also got the opportunity to visit The Courtald Gallery, in London, visiting the Rodin and Dance exhibition of his extensive studies of movement in the human form. Rodins small terracotta forms opened my eyes to the adaptability and complexity of the human form yet at the same time how simple and geometric it can be.
This direction of study led me on to looking at feminist art, originally finding the extensive and in depth theories of Carolee Schneeman who has dedicated her life to breaking the boundaries between eroticism and the politics of gender from the early 70s. In this project i focused on their views and work which viewed the female genitalia as something other than exactly what it is, such as a piece of architecture or a sculptural piece.
Thinking again about measuring ourselves against what we have been taught or told throughout our lives, and Schneemans abstract views on female genitalia, I started depicting the form, viewing them in different ways. Here thinking about the golden ratio, and how everything in nature fits into this one mathematical sequence.
Moving on to study artists such as Sarah Lucas and Louise Bourgeois, I quickly developed my ideas to incorporate the use of textiles. The use of textiles along side other typically domestic imagery in art is often seen as a representation of feminism or the presence of a ‘mother’ figure. Looking at the two artists work, the idea of collaborating more than one body began to intrigue me.
Here is when my direction changed focus of only myself as a form, to the female form as a collective. From drawing and painting genitalia onto cotton and sewing different body parts together to create more abstract and suggestive forms, I developed the statement ‘This is not my body, this is the body.’
The dictionary definition of ‘binding’ is describes as ‘securing’ and ‘uniting’. The dictionary also describes binding as ‘restrictive’. This, in my work, suggests the restrictive nature of females under the male gaze and also relates back to the original title of this project ‘Boundaries’. Looking back at Louise Bourgeois and Sarah Lucas’ textile work I created these 3 ‘tight sculptures’, experimenting with the depiction of human form and methods of binding bodies, these experiments later spring boarded the basis for my final piece.
By this part of my project I had discovered a lot about how i felt about social taboos in relativity to my own body. Going back to the use of pornographic magazine I started creating collages, stripping the identities of the models and looking further into the idea of comfortability in our own skin and social taboos. At this point I decided, if I were to continue with the female body on a collective scale that I needed more insight into other women ideas around the same subject. This is when I created a questionnaire.
Getting friends of around my age to give answers to the end of statements such as ‘What I like/dislike about my body is…’ and ‘What society likes/dislikes most about the female body is…’ it became evidently clear to me that most girls my age have roughly the same ideas about how their body should look.
Here is when I began to question why.
Throughout the time of this project I had been reading John Bergers ‘Ways of Seeing’ This book really opened my eyes to the relationship between males and females through art. Berger suggests statements such as ‘Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.’ Through this book, I found my answer. Women want to act and look a certain way to please and be admired by the opposite sex. I decided that at some point I wanted to create these questionnaire answers into a piece of audio work.
From my tight sculptures shown before, I developed the idea of recreating this with real models. Binding them in wool, just as my sculptures were. To retain modesty and comfortability with my models, I allowed them to wear underwear. This made the models more willing to get into certain positions for my photographs however, the end results of my photos are less effective and relatable to my textile work because of this. Whilst doing my photoshoot, I also took short snippets of film.
With the idea of using my questionnaire in my final piece and creating audio, I figured film may work well a long side this, due to the combination of a still image and audio feeling slightly awkward. The film clip I liked the most lasted approx 7 seconds. Meaning if i were to use this, I would run it on a continuous loop along side my audio.
Creating the audio I wanted to make a strong statement of a collective of women. For this i had the idea of slowly layering my audio clips of me reading my friends written sentences, until the audience is given the effect of almost a ‘crowd’. Starting of by introducing each answer singularly and ending with an almost unrecognisable babbling of voices, I feel this is the most effective part of my final piece, I really love the effect it gives and feel it could almost work as a piece on its own, played in a dark room.
Overall I am pleased with the message this final piece portrays. Standing for collectiveness as a united gender, but also the restrictions that females face under the male gaze and social taboos in todays society. However I feel my film work is lacking in skill and I honestly don't enjoy it all that much, never the less this project as a whole confirmed the focus of my overall practice on the challenging perceptions of the female form.
Carrying this forward to my current project, I am developing my own style, focusing on practicing my portraiture looking at the idea of depicting a reaction to a person rather than depicting their ‘realistic’ form. This time working in both 2 and 3d. Through the basis of this boundaries project I have found a topic I am passionate and opinionated about, and I will definitely continue to develop studying the female form into my next year here at Plymouth.