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Transcript from talk by Carlamaria Jackson Wednesday 5th September 18:45

I'd like to thank you all for coming to see our show today and I'd particularly like to thank Guildford Arts and Clyde & Co for choosing my work to exhibit. I will try to give you a brief background as to why I'm here today, the story behind the work and where my work is going.


So...how did I get here
8 years ago I left the courier industry to have a year's sabbatical with my husband.  My intention was to become a professional artist. Many people thought I'd lost my senses but  I was on a mission, I wanted to paint like Johannes Vermeer. Attempting to the copy the girl with the pearl earring a couple of times I soon realised I needed help!


I enrolled at the University of the Creative arts in Farnham to do an access course followed by a BA in fine art. Not fully appreciating that times had changed and that techniques are no longer taught in art schools,  I battled on with my chosen subject, the female nude which was considered dead,  to the despair of my tutors! What I did learn however, was how to bring levels of meaning  to a piece of art - this was a tall order!  it went without saying that I wanted my art to be aesthetically pleasing and well executed  but  meaning too... when all we artists want to do,  is create!  To argue my point that the female form should be debated within the arts, I heavily researched the history of the female nude and feminism.  I went on to fill my work with so much meaning that my tutors were left scratching their heads in confusion. I must say if I had not been on this eventful roller-coaster ride,  the work you see before you today would never have materialised.


My work is heavily weighted in Western Art History

For centuries the female nude was considered the highest form of art. Patrons and royalty wanted it,  in the guise of goddesses of course and the church accepted it if it reflected its teachings.  But women were excluded from representing their own form. The first wave of feminists in the 1850's fought for equality, in the arts this meant access to formal art training and be permitted to paint the highest form of art. It took until 1903 before a female artist could sit with a male contemporary.  By which time formal art training was declining because of the camera.  By the 1920's female artists in France and the UK were exploring variations of nudity, beautification, objectification, female sexuality and mortality.   Initially the press and art critics didn't treat them kindly. The French writer Roland Dorgelès  wrote  of Emily Charmy a highly successful French nude painter "she sees like a women and paints like a man", as if only a man could paint a nude!   Later these formidable female artists were written out of art history.

It was not until the suffragette Mary Richardson who slashed the Rokeby Venus by Velaqueze, followed by the 2nd wave of feminists in the 60's and 70's that the female nude in art was really questioned.  2nd wave feminists tarred the first wave of feminists artists for following in the footsteps of the old masters by degrading and objectifying women in their paintings.  This resulted in the 2nd wave of feminist artists challenging objectification as they literally turned the female body inside out. Their attack was so aggressive that their stance on anti-objectification and anti-beautification practically banished the female nude as irrelevant and embarrassing, just as the church had done with the rise of Christianity centuries before. Whilst the female form was practically irradiated from western art for 40 years .  Today we are immersed in over sexualised images of women which is played out in the media, TV, films internet and networking sites and over sexualised images of men are not far behind.


My quest is to determine if the female nude in art is relevant?
Hanging female nudes in a work place is a bold concept and together we  could be accused of objectifying women or by making both sexes at the very least feel uncomfortable.  In our culture some women are exploited and others are liberated with their bodies -  I am trying to understand the negative connotations of the past with the female form and to discover the line where she is accepted and rejected, whilst at the same time trying to recognise and understand  how men see her.  My journey hopes to determine if the female nude is still relevant in art today, when the female form is so prevalent  in western culture. The work is attempting to address the essence of womankind and the intrinsic behaviour of mankind from several perspectives.  
Using found images and my own photographs I am using the very medium that exposes the sexualised images of women today to hopefully create beautiful female nudes that both men and women can enjoy.
I explore the idea that some men see beneath the clothing of a woman to the nakedness underneath focussing on a particular body part they find attractive.  This is inherently natural and unavoidable behaviour that effectively renders the women as sex object. My work concentrates on the male focus, imitating the human eye where the periphery vision is blurred symbolizing the anonymity effect of the male gaze.The two pieces in the corridor that focus on women's breasts {What Men See 1 & 3} explores the phenomenon of x-ray vision (being visually undressed) something that many women experience at some point in there lives.  My reason to create life sized works was to get the viewer to recognise this inherent behaviour which is compounded by the media's use of the female form and breast augmentation.  The series explores degrees of explicitness and comfort in viewing which is perhaps exasperated in an office environment, the pair represent both ends of the spectrum in my study.
The belly button and tattoo pieces {Allure } explore the invited gaze just to confuse you men even more. To create individuality both men and women have adorned their bodies for centuries.  Tattoos and body piercings were popular 3000 years ago and the liberated contemporary women in western society are embracing this fashion in growing numbers. My intention is to show how seductive these sign posts are on traditionally private areas of the body, areas that are becoming more visible in western society.  The back pose addresses how the gaze is invited and what the male imagines he sees underneath.   
The two large paintings take on the weight of art history.  My aim was to modernize contentious passive  images of the great masters to see if they  have a sensual relevance today. 'Sleeping Venus' the goddess of love and beauty and 'The Three Graces' the goddesses of charm, beauty and creativity are good company for modern day celebrities, all of whom exercise their right to beautify and attract the male gaze. In Sleeping Venus -  the focus is on her nipples allowing the rest of the bodies to melt and fade into the background. The curvature, colour pallet and softness of the skin is enough to draw us in without knowing who she is. This suggests that the power of the female form and the strength of the male imagination is so intrinsic and vital to human behaviour  that it is impossible to eradicate it. With the Three Graces I have removed the faces and body parts removing all sense of reality and objectification. Yet the piece still maintains a level of sensuality and seduction.  This perhaps suggests,  that it is the viewer that objectifies the models,  by the act of imagination.


Where is the work going?
I feel that each series  still has a long way to run, I  am currently working on the Red Carpet Series, which addresses western societies obsession with celebrity culture which seems to validate a certain type of beauty ideal. Similar to the adoration of goddesses in western art history. This series intends to capture the very essence of the glamorised celebrity and reveal how she is reduced to flesh and form.


How do I do it?
Each piece of work takes between  40 and 50 hours to complete using a combination of digital software packages.  Each painting has anything from 35 to 270 individual photographs within it. I paint, draw and layering each photograph until I have the desired painterly outcome. While painters often emulate reality,  I aim to emulate the painter with the ambition of creating little Vermeer's which I hope will be loved.
I hope I haven't sent you all to sleep!   Please feel  free to come and talk to me if you have any questions and thank you for listening.

     

     Carlamaria Jackson

 D I G I T A L   A R T I S T