This is an old text dating from 2001 which refers only to my paintings. For a more up to date statement about my current work, see http://howtogoon.com/index.php/statement-january-2011/
Gender is an important element in my work, and despite
sporadic attempts to express myself through other (painted) subject
matter it was to the nude figure that I returned and it is that which
continues to intrigue me.
I am particularly interested in the specific themes that adhere to the painted nude: The almost exclusively decorative quality of the classic female nude; the cocquetterie, flirting with a sense of shame, the implicit shame of their nude posing and it's implications of availability.
And the whole different set of visual imprints which applies to the male nude, the expectation that they defend their nudity somehow, hiding the implication of vulnerability behind a particular stance, playing the part of some hero, nude but for sword, shield and helmet, naked but for a steely glare. Or else dead - depositions, anatomy lessons - 'I'm not nude, I'm dead, so I'm not really here at all'. Either heroic, dead, or else sensual - 'I'm not naked, I'm just really desirable'. (Which almost invariably has homo-erotic implications.) My fascination is with disturbing these conventions, these expectations that cling to the painted nude.
Without deliberately altering the bodies, I observe
those elements which break with convention. Those are the things that
fascinate me, that I bring to the fore, emphasize.
With the recent series (of eight) of different women, it's about an exploration of strength and intimacy despite the implicit vulnerability of nakedness. These women are about the opposite of the expected 'available flesh'. With earlier female nudes I played with these themes to see if I could escape the conventions, avoid the 'decorative nude', the most successful of these paintings involve an intriguing balance: fragile in their nakedness but strong in terms of the aura of the model.
It is this balance that I want to further examine: now
with male nudes which conform to their own, different set of conventions
and expectations of decorativeness, notable in the consistence of denial
of male vulnerability, and it is this last element that I am investigating
with the current series of naked men. In order confront those conventions
for male nudes and give the viewer no acceptable label with which to
categorise what they are seeing and thus protect themselves from the
confrontational glare of nakedness, they have to be neither active/heroic,
dead nor overtly sensual.
These paintings are done in the studio from models. They are portraits of the body whereby not simply the faces, but the tension of the personal flesh and blood combine with exaggeration and overstated colour markings to express a dismissal of the anonymity of the flesh.
This disturbing of the conventions, challenging the
gendered visual expectations imprints which apply to the painted nude
is the major theme underlying my current work.
"Ideology manifests itself as much as by what is unspoken - unthinkable, unrepresentable - as by what is articulated in a work of art. Assumptions about women's weakness and passivity; her sexual availability for men's needs; her defining domestic and nurturing function; her identity with the realm of nature; her existence as object rather than creator of art, [...] all these constitute an ongoing subtext underlying almost all individual images involving women."
(Linda Nochlin, 'Women, Art and Power', 1988.)