March 6 to April 3, 1991
Human history had been marked by a compulsion to visualize the self. This compulsion involves us on all levels – personal, social, political, and physical. In contemporary society, the product of this compulsion is largely a result of mass media and the social realm in which we live and work. Many artists believe that representation of the body has been completely dominated by art historical and media images.
There is often a huge disparity between who we are personally and the way in which we are represented according to our role in society, i.e. adult, male, female, artist, financial advisor, mother, brother, etc. Conversely, how is our personal experience filtered through our culture and the media? How are our concepts of masculinity and femininity and our other roles formed? How do our perceptions of our bodies relate to our past, family, the social and political realm? On one hand, it is a product of social and cultural factors.
When speaking of art, our experience of the body is addressed in many ways: direct representation, symbolic representation, or by marks and objects that indicate the presence of a body.
Artists represent what they perceive to be real. They bring to the making of images, concepts that have been instilled in them by their culture. They are not recording what they see so much as what they know or mean. Personal vision joins with artistic conventions of time and place to decide the manner and effect of the representation. One of the excitements of looking at art is its facility for entering the “doorway” into another’s perceptions.
In figurative art, by a process of simplification, the appearance of things in the optical world is reduced to a few telling traits sufficient to present the human figure and human action. Conventionalization is universal and all artistic styles may be included because in the societies in which they prevail, they are accepted as comprehensible means of representation.
Trends since the 1800s have been away from optical “fact” and today’s artists often disregard photographic “truth,” yet their images are perfectly recognizable to us (comic strips, commercials, etc.) Today, very few restrictions are imposed by tradition (unlike the past) and artists represent the human figure as it is, in almost any condition and situation.
Robert Dyson does not represent the body in a traditional sense. He often uses metaphors and symbols and mixes art historical references with found objects. Dyson touches on our concept of the natural. The body appears to be a natural representation, yet the only “realistic” image we see is reproduced by a photocopier. He examines the body as it is constrained and constructed, within the “frame” of culture.
Dyson states that he doesn’t want people who look at his art to like him; he just wants them to think.
Monique Germaine explores and examines her personal experience as a woman and her own sexuality in the context of her social, economic, and political background. Influenced by her study of psychology, her art reveals a great deal of the artist’s “mysticism.” The works are highly complex and symbolic. They deal with balance in life – masculine and feminine, past and future, good and evil – the idea that for every reaction there is an opposite and equal reaction. While her symbolism is very personal, it deals with images and ideas we all recognize.
Greg Molesworth works in a direct, gestural style. His reference to the body is visible in the brush strokes and spontaneously applied vibrant colours so prevalent in his work. Meditative by nature, he infuses his work with rhythm and movement through active engagements with the materials. By viewing his canvases, the viewer is able to see Molesworth “thinking out loud.” His intuitive, non-verbal language is rooted in the body. The marks are fluid and immediate – a clear illustration of the rhythms of the artist’s hand.
Phil Morrison’s work makes clear references to the division between body and mind. His concern is with the body as “housing” all that makes us human – emotions, ideas, imagination, fears and drives. He also addresses the fact that the body is in control of those same features.
As a sculptor, one of his essential concerns is with the negative space. The tension created by the space between and around each object is a vital piece of each work and he considers it to be as important and emotive as the works themselves.
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