University of Tasmania
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Surface and tactility : new approaches to picturing the female body

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posted on 2023-05-26, 08:15 authored by Scott, MG
The project develops alternate forms of representation of the female body in the mediums of oil and digital print. Representations of the body are central to contemporary art practice. Yet there are cogent arguments coming from feminist cultural theory that, in general women's bodies, and particularly the nude, cannot be portrayed other than through forms of representation that expose them to the male gaze. This poses a significant problem for women artists wishing to employ imagery of the female body. The project has explored alternative ways of depicting the female body; ways, which disrupt ocular-centric forms of representation that privilege the spectator by posing the body as displayed object. The following observations provided the background for this project: within contemporary approaches to representing the female body there is a marked shift away from the figuration of the external body; its depiction occurs less frequently within two-dimensional media; and, its prepositions tend to be of a less subjective nature. The project has sought to redress these shortfalls by seeking to re-vision the female body in two-dimensional painting and print-media. It has investigated alternatives to the symbolic body, enshrined within conventional pictures of female nudes, through explorations into embodied subjectivity - the specificities of lived, female experiences. Pictorially these impressions are representational, but the tactile dimensions of imagery, suggested through material surface quality, evoke a palpable sensuality that disrupts stereotypical patterns of looking. The relationship between tactility and the sense of touch dissolves the psychological and physical distance between the viewer and the picture. Pictorially, the representational framework varied from fragmented and cropped imagery of the female torso to direct illusionistic representations of the whole body. The outcomes of the research project, in the form of digital prints produced within the final phase, were chosen for exhibition. Initial investigations required the plasticity of paint media to convey the materiality of the imagery but advances, within both digital image layering processes and printing techniques resulted in a shift towards digital prints as principal output. The exhibition is, however, inclusive of key works, both prints and paintings, illuminating major developmental points encountered in the course of the project. The written exegesis includes documentation of practical and conceptual inquiries, together with an exploration of the underlying themes of the project placed in context through discussion of both historical and contemporary art.


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