It’s time for Round Nine of This vs. That. This month I look at two pieces by Jen Mann. The catch is, that the pieces are actually only one piece (!?). Well, not exactly, but I look at how she has edited an existing piece of hers to make a new piece. Photography, luckily, allows us to see the before and after to which I comment on. Have a read over Round Nine: Visibility and let me know what piece you prefer. Did Jen Mann make the work better? Or should she have left it alone? Or, perhaps it could still be worked on? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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I found these photographs taken for Vogue Paris by Swedish photographer, Mikael Jansson. What attracted me to them was how much they reminded me of Barbie dolls. The models (Diana Dondoe and Missy Rayder) appear so casual about being naked it is almost as if that is all they know. Much like Barbie, it seems their own bodies are desexualised and their nakedness is made very secondary. This is why the photography works so well – the product is emphasized through the very casualness of the naked bodies, and in doing so the product has nothing to compete with. Very clever work in my opinion. The models are shinned up to add a lovely glossy sheen to their skin which looks flawlessly beautiful, and very much plastic (hence the Barbie connection). In this first image the poses of the models (especially the one on the left) look rigid, as if the models (dolls) have been positioned manually and are unable to move themselves. And despite the models having beautiful figures, it is not their skinniness or shape that really makes them look like Barbie dolls, but rather how they are positioned, the colour choice, the way the light hits the skin making it shine, and how disconnected to their own bodies they appear. I think it is a wonderful accomplishment from Jansson.
On another note, I found a black and white image (above) from the series which despite being more beautiful (in my eyes), completely loses the doll-like aspect. I find that without the colour, and with the shine diminished, that the models’ human quality returns and they appear as two naked girls hanging by the pool (seductively, of course). So I suppose in this instance colour photography really achieves something that is arguably otherwise unachievable through a black and white image. Normally I prefer black and white photography, so it is great for photographers like Jansson to impress me with the accomplishments of colour.
Twins. I feel like it’s impossible to escape the idea of female doubleness (or twins as I prefer to label it) in art. So many times I find pieces that show two women and paint them as opposites, black and white, good and bad. I’m not too sure if artists always intend or desire to show the good / bad dichotomy, but I struggle to separate it. Not that it’s a bad thing necessarily, I just wonder why it’s so omnipresent.
I’ll start with a photo of actual twins from the famous and controversial Diane Arbus. The Roselle twins
In this instance, Arbus has taken the subject matter of identical twins and associated it with something ‘freakish’. Anyone familiar with Arbus’ work will know that it’s pretty much all about freaks. And while these twins are by no means freaks (there is nothing abnormal about their size, skin, body etc.) the way she has photographed them (and just by association with her name) does add this dimension. There is no colour difference to emphasize the good / bad dichotomy, but their expressions certainly suggest this. On the left is the ‘evil’ one and the right the ‘good’ one. I quite love the expression on the left though (I wonder what that says about me?).
Another image I found is by Cassandra Rhodin
More of a fashion illustration, the black / white contrast is pretty obvious in the hair and lips. However, I like that this is pretty much the only thing that differentiates them. Thus, not fulfilling the good / bad idea so strongly. Only through our existing notions of white being good and black being bad would we draw conclusions on the nature of these two women.
And finally, a piece by Glenn Arthur
Really interesting work (I love all his work). There is certainly contrast between the two women in the good / bad way. The blonde woman is clearly positioned as the good one, the victim even. While the dark-haired woman seems obviously malicious, especially in the way she is holding the necklace. I’m sure there is heaps of symbolism and meaning in this piece, and I would love to hear more about it. But, it definitely fits within the twin / female doubleness art that I see so often.
Audrey Kawasaki’s work is undoubtedly intriguing, beautiful and well worth googling. I love how she paints on wood panels. Not only because you see the grain, which adds its own tone and texture, but because I adore the kind of see-through look in general. It’s simple in terms of paint, but so wonderfully expressive in line and form. While pretty much all her work is fascinating, I threw together a few of her images which focus on the idea of duality.
These pieces remind me of the astrological sign Gemini, which is represented by the twins, and the ones where she has joined the hair of the figures makes me think about Siamese twins.
I’ve read that her work is often about representing contradiction, but I don’t really see it so much in these pieces. The doubling of figures adds some kind of mystique and poignancy, but doesn’t entirely explore the supposed contradictory or dual nature of women i.e. the virgin / vamp notion. But I guess this is what I like about it – that it isn’t an obvious exploration of that idea. While these pieces certainly made me think about duality, I like that Kawasaki hasn’t succumbed to obvious portrayals of this and suggests a deeper, more complex nature of the feminine.