Three London artists who will show their work at GFEST – Gaywise FESTival this year, offer their opinions on why the male nude figure is so present in art today, claiming other meanings beyond stereotype.
The male body inspires multiple art works and this is no news. It has historically received many portraits at painting, photography, and other supports. Some might even argue about a certain contemporary obsession, especially from gay artists. Recent works from three London artists are examples that this continuous search does not necessarily follow a sexual nature; instead, artists are looking for new ways to explore it, depict it, and absorb it through art. Their compositions are not entirely dedicated to the male nude figure, which is only seen in some moments, but this part is interesting to confront how new readings exist beyond cliché.
Gokhan Tanriover was born in Turkey, grew up in the UK, and quit his career as a doctor to dedicate himself to photography. His pieces are created in well-elaborated techniques of production and printing, such as liquid light and cyanotype. These images mix abstract, religious, and queer culture elements. Tanriover says that he is “fascinated by the motion and distortion that water causes on subjects behind the lens”, which gives, in fact, an often disturbing, but beautifully constructed appearance to his pictures. The male gaze is not only non-conventional, but a second layer of his focus.
Working with more figurative and accessible views, Matthew Stradling looks for the classical and undeniable sensuality of the male nude. His paintings have lively, full-contrast colours, depicting bodies in raw, organic, explicit behaviours. “The paintings often seduce the viewer with a dream-like flow of imagery, a careful attention to detail and an intense use of colours”, he asserts. Stradling is pretty honest on the reasons of portraying the male: “As a gay man I can only express myself through a gay man’s eyes”, but which connects with “people of all sexualities”.
Giving a more geometrical, anatomical angle, Portuguese artist João Trindade dedicates himself to the male figure, but connecting it more with the space, particularly the contemporary cities space. Trindade acknowledges this collective passion: “The contemporary perception of the male human form is a fascination for me, I see it as a natural wonder”. But rather than the easy interpretation of this, we find an enthralling and laborious exercise of displaying the flesh in a sort of dramatic drawing, moving away from an obvious sexy take.
These three artists are reluctant to accept the label of gay or queer to their work, rather situating it into a broader context, one of human relations. “I hope to show my reflections and states of soul as a whole, as a human, as a sexual being” is the conception of Trindade in favour of a more open conception, which is somehow reflected at Tanriover words as well: “I am just a photographer that happens to be gay and my sexuality does not affect my images at conscious level but naturally it may feed itself into my work”. Both connect with Straddling, who speaks of “liberation of the LGBT audience”. In fact, there is a need for a less stereotyped perception of the male nude, and of those artists who produce it in all possible nuances. Notwithstanding the public opinion, it’s a common sense that the male image (nude or not) will remain as a recurrent paradigm for art in the near future, what is possibly missing is more people to admit it.
The artists will be exhibiting the works at Urban Myths, part of GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014, which will feature many other artists. It happens from 10 to 22 November 2014, 11 am to 6 pm (Sunday closed) – Location: Menier Gallery, 51 Southwark Street London SE1 1RU Cost: FREE/ check for further information