Bod-Art: Part One

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The human body is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult subject for an artist to depict. It is easy because of its familiarity and availability, the nude has been one for the most important influences for some artists for a very long time. In one shape or another body may be universal, the human form is notoriously elusive to capture. This is why artists have studied the body with mathematical precision in search of the ideal form.

Different cultures have revered or reviled different parts of the body. Ideals include: the athletic male nude for the Greeks; the voluptuous female figure of the Woman from Willendorf; the head alone for people of Ife, West Africa; and maturity for the traditional Japanese female performers known as geisha.

Tattoos and more external modifications donned the body for many years in tribal societies. In recent years it has spread through all cultures and races resulting in this form of body art becoming as varied as the places it was – and continues to be- practiced. A big reason, of course, is self-expression and aesthetics along with a sense of permanency.

Body art isn’t an evolutionary progression, at least in terms of primitive to less primitive, if you look at the essence of body art, at what it’s meant to express – identity, gender, status – those things always remain the same. Hence, my work focuses less on the body as a whole and more the breaking down of these body parts and their social opinions and then going into a controlled examination and interpretation of these with my artwork.

In recent decades, the body has moved from being the subject of traditional portraiture to become an active presence in life and participatory events. Art’s historical, socio-political and cultural developments, from radical feminism in the 1970s to contemporary scientific breakthroughs, have all had a profound influence on artists’ attitudes to, and representations of, the human form. Through art, the body becomes a site for defining individual identity, constructing sex and gender ideals, negotiating power, and experimenting with the nature of representation itself. These aspects highly influence the creation and reading of my work and allow me a more flexible way of working with my imagery than just a purely 17th century aesthetic view. 

-Tristan

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