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clapham art gallery - ‘SEX sells’

Tuesday 18/11/03 – 20/12/03
tue-sat 12pm-8pm

Anna Johanna Blom > Adrian Di Duca > David McKeran > Hannah Plumb > Kes Richardson > Nawfal Salman > Yoshiko Sato

Curated by Zavier Ellis

CLAPHAM ART GALLERY presents ‘SEX sells’, a multi media exhibition that celebrates sex and explores art inspired by the sex industry.

Consisting of painting, drawing, video, sculpture and mixed media, this exhibition offers an overview of erotic artwork by contemporary artists deriving from pornography, sex cards, sex toys and sexual identity. Currently there is an abundance of artists working internationally within and around sexual parameters. This exhibition represents a selection who are uninhibited and who reflect the ever-present nature of sex and its industry within society. Visual culture is often loaded with sexual imagery in many contexts. It is given that sex is used to sell consumer goods; sex itself is sold; and sexual products are sold. We have no volition in being exposed to this extraordinary phenomenon, be it latent or overt, from a TV advertisement to front cover of a style magazine to a sex card in a phone booth.

The artists here continue in a long history of modernist technique by appropriating this imagery from low and mass culture such as advertisements and pornography, and respond by making objects of great formal beauty. These works contain an overtly sexual content whilst maintaining an ambiguity that is absent within the original source material. Not only this, but they do so in a celebratory fashion. A subject which can even still be something of a taboo is aired here and congratulated.

Anna Johanna Blom is a Swedish artist who graduated this year from the Royal College of Art. Her video performance is concerned with female sexual identity, the body, and female sexuality. Her work is erotic but confrontational. By casting herself as subject Blom empowers herself and projects emotional components of her sexuality onto us, examining eroticism, desire, dependence, violence, release, control and the personal as universal.

Adrian Di Duca makes large scale works of acrylic or inkjet prints on canvas. They are coded, outsized re-presentations of images found on sex cards or in pornographic magazines. Each piece consists of a large number of tiny monochromatic canvases bound together, creating a sculptural, flexible surface reminiscent of pixelated images or mosaics. The image within is both shaped and disrupted by this pixilation, creating a direct interplay between form and the formless.

David McKeran has been collecting prostitute’s calling cards for a number of years. Over this period he has identified a variety of styles in which they are presented. These include those with an image appropriated from a pornographic magazine; those which feature a genuine photograph of the woman concerned taken either personally or professionally in a studio; those which appear to the artist to have been designed by a man; and those which he surmises have been produced by the prostitute in question and represent her in a manner in which she intends. It is these in which McKeran is particularly interested. McKeran uses these cards as a point of departure from which to make nervous, linear drawings, recalling cards that in a previous era consisted of ink drawing illustrations. McKeran’s technique is to fix his gaze on the card whilst making the drawing with only cursory glances. He replicates the figure as well as the writing, revealing charged drawings ‘that are resonant of our ambivalent attitudes in society towards prostitution’.

Hannah Plumb graduated this year from Wimbledon School of Art. Her sculptural, photographic and light box work is derived from a strong interest in animism, which is ‘the human ability to project life onto inanimate and lifeless objects’. Plumb’s work will consist of sculptures cast from sex dolls, light boxes and badges featuring words and slogans appropriated from the written descriptions on sex doll packaging such as ‘loving mouth’ or ‘inviting mouth and anus’. Plumb subverts Classical notions of art by appropriating its chief characteristics such as the sculptural bust or reclining nude. Rendered as it is we are presented with a debased, alternative version. She is concerned with fantasy, taboo and the marketing that forms a connection between those and marginalised reality.

Kes Richardson has achieved considerable commercial and critical success as well as an abundance of substantial press coverage since he has been showing with Clapham Art Gallery over the last two years. He is known for his graphic renderings of portraits and nudes that he has appropriated from internet pornography. By employing a strong sense of design and an acute eye for colour Richardson creates immaculate, hard-edged renderings. They are sensual works that achieve a subtlety and ambiguity that is absent in the original source material.

Nawfal Salman is concerned with the notion of the snapshot. Working in a photo-realist manner using pornographic magazines for subject matter he creates small-scale, photographic print sized oil paintings. Salman forms a direct interplay between painting, photography, pornography and the art object. Rendered as paintings it could be argued that the subject becomes even more objectified as the artist offers his subtle reinterpretation. They are personalized, precious objects that intensify the position of the subject as well as viewer.

Yoshiko Sato is a Japanese artist working in London. Sato’s work is notable for the fact that she always casts herself as subject. Originally working in sculpture and performance, her recent work has become more photographic in nature. Sato is concerned with female and male sexuality, the self, objectification, fantasy and the sexual commodity. Her work is confrontational and teasing, for example previously selling her phone number or a rendezvous. For this show Sato has turned as she has previously to the sex card. By forming her work from an abundance of cards where she models and photographs herself Sato asks ‘for a new owner who’ll look after her properly’ or guarantees ‘a mind blowing blow job’. Her work is erotic and directly sexual as she cannily emphasises the desires of the viewer, who is caught without confirmation between fantasy and reality.

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