Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Every Artists work is different and unique to them, so this week I wanted to provide a deeper look into my art work, what I'm currently working on and what it all means to me.
An important aspect and focus of my work is portraiture and the body, but also what a portrait can be, especially with gender and how we can view and interpret that. The male gaze is a very prominent feature of art and art history, as John Berger famously says 'Men act and women appear' . With my university work I want to look closer at that and look at female empowerment through art and flipping the male gaze on its head and create a more sincere way of portraying women and men in paintings and drawings.
One way I am looking into flipping the male gaze into something less objectifying is by looking into the Female Gaze, what it means to look from a female perspective. The Female Gaze is less defined than the male gaze, and doesn't even have a definite definition on Google, unlike the male gaze which can be defined with a Google search. So the Female Gaze can be explored in a lot of ways and is open to be defined by any female Artist who tries it. The Female Gaze is often seen as a more romanticised view, we take the time to present our portraits as people with emotions and thoughts rather than just something appealing to look at. It is empathetic. A lot of women creating feminist artwork look at the Female Gaze as something empowering, and it can be. I find it empowering to paint my body and literally make it mine, especially after going through a lot of traumatic experiences with my body. However empowering nude art comes with the problem of a male viewer. When we make Art we know there will be an audience and that we cannot control how they perceive or take our artwork once its on show. So when a female viewer may find a nude portrait empowering, there will be a male viewer who may take that painting and sexualise and objectify it. And we cannot control that. So with my personal project on the Female Gaze I am looking at what it means to be empowering. And a question that must be asked is; Is a nude portrait still empowering if male viewers still ignore the female gaze and objectify the painting?
As empowering as it is to look at the female body through the Female Gaze, I also want to look at male bodies too. With that empathetic approach to a portrait that the Female Gaze offers I find that when drawing men, it creates an almost vulnerable portrait, perhaps intimate too. I always want my portraits to give the person thought and feelings rather than just being a body to look at, and I feel that comes through with my portraits of men as well as my portraits of women and myself.
My process may differ from other art students as my university, OCA, is online based, with a focus on developing art techniques and skills, and applying that to ideas, rather than having a strong focus on an artist voice and ideas. This has allowed me to step out of my shell and really explore different mediums. You take your time to look at skills for drawing and painting, separately and together which really has allowed me to improve on my painting and drawing techniques. Mixed media was always something I thought that would never interest me, however by working through my course, I found you can build up and create really interesting and amazing artwork by combining mediums and colours. My favourite drawing technique at the moment, is layering watercolour underneath oil pastel, which creates such a unique and painting feel to a drawing. I have never been one to like working with pastels of any kind, but now it's my favourite medium to draw with at the moment.
My roots are in painting, and I love to use acrylics at the moment, but I can't wait to explore different painting mediums as my course progresses. I think its important to stay true to yourself as an artist and focus on what you want to focus on. For me that is portraiture and the body, and while I do have mediums that are my favourite, its important to get creative and explore new things sometimes. My work is about creating honesty and empowerment. And its great that I get to explore that with models as well. It was great to see that honesty and empowerment through my models, especially as the session goes on, to see the people I draw become more confident about themselves, it helps to create an amazing sense of intimacy in my work.
I can't wait to create more and work with more people (when Lockdown is no longer a thing) and to see what else I can make and explore. You can follow my work and journey on my Instagram and blog: @mona.hopewell.art Simona Hopewell Drawing One