The body plays an integral part in shaping the mind. My work investigates this concept in two different ways. I explore the observational effects painting has on my body and the bodies of those who experience my work. Also of equal importance, I investigate many psychological aspects of painting. We are the total sum of what we observe, sense and project. This sum also includes what others sense, observe and transpose onto us. For me, painting is an incredibly effective way to communicate lived experience, to project the plurality of the self and to portray the complexities of being human. My recent body of work entitled Gaze dives deep into this exploration, focusing particularly on what it means to be female.
What is real, what is ideal? A sexualized object, a vessel, fat, ugly, skinny, weak, invisible, diminutive, elusive, sensitive, beautiful, strategic, magnificent, unwavering, fascinating, powerful and present. The works in this series are, at their core, about giving agency to the female subject. This body of work confronts and challenges societal constructs including this age old pearl: the passive and decorative object – a.k.a the female nude. In painting history these ‘objects’ are traditionally called models. In the Gaze series, these models have transformed, shedding this label and many of its objective associations. Each individual is a confident operant, simultaneously strong and unapologetic. These women intentionally fix their gaze on YOU, the viewer. In turn, you no longer see just a body. You connect directly with a sentient being. The process of working with my operants is much different than working from a model. Each woman selects their own pose; they are active agents in the composition outcome of the oeuvre.
What is tangible, and what is intangible? Some practical strategies in my painters toolkit further assist to enliven the senses and give an even more embodied experience with this series. The paintings are rendered larger than life, they have a bodily presence thus making the interaction between painting and viewer one that resonates on a human scale. The operants are intentionally painted from a higher vantage point so that they look down towards the viewer, further solidifying the strength of each gaze to transfix. The power position of their gazes overrides the raw vulnerability of the flesh. Skin is the only protection we wear every day of our lives; it is the most sensitive organ of the body and is in communion with all of our vital systems. I paint the shape, colours and form of each operant without embellishment, their bodies and skin presented as they exist, fiction and idolization superseded by realistic representation. I also exploit the transformative and malleable qualities of oil paint. The intricacies of the brushstroke, texture, shape, and gesture all work together, enabling me to create hyperreal tones and shades of skin that, some have said, are more skin-like than skin itself.
Who holds the power the painter, the viewer or the operant? The illusionary qualities of oil paint, and the longstanding masculine history of the gaze combine in my work to engage and confront the viewer. Voyeurism is supplanted by accountability and most importantly, connectivity. My work extends beyond oversimplified quests for power in representation. These paintings enable a stimulating mind and body link between the active operant and the engaged art goer.