Art on show in Brighton and Hove & East and West Sussex
10 October 2014. Ground Coffee cafe in Hove was packed last night, for the launch of Jamie McCartney’s show “The Sum of Our Parts”, at Hove’s arty cafe, Ground Coffee.
Jamie showed large digital prints of his ‘scanner art’ as part of Brighton and Hove’s Photo Fringe festival (see Events in this blog for more info). Indeed, he has won a photographic award for this art. The prints are compositions of digital scans of parts of nude models’ bodies – foot, leg, buttock, breast, head etc. The scans of the parts are then joined together in a digital edit, to make the figure whole again.
The prints do remind me of the photocopies we have all made of our own bodies at some time or other, but thoughtfully joined together and transformed into Art. This impression is enhanced by the strong contrast and light peach coloured bodies, reminiscent of Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro (or modelling with light) style of painting.
The slightly dismembered or disjointed appearance of the bodies brings to mind the surrealist dolls of Hans Bellmer.
But unlike Bellmer’s work, which looks darkly at the ambivalence of the body, juxtaposing erotic perfection with discomforting deformity or decomposition, Jamie’s scanner art is pretty perfect. There are interesting references to mythology (bodies arranged into the figure of Christ and a swastika) and intriguing hints of the fetish club, but it feels safe, like good clean fun, closer to Helmut Newton’s glamour than Bellmer’s dark surrealism.
The chiaroscuro, the complementary colours, and an elegant sense of composition, in these prints is attractive. It’s the shape of the body in “Goddess”, and the way she is positioned in the bottom third of a dark canvas, that appeals. It feels like she floats serenely in a deep dark sea.
The body parts pressed up against the glass and distorted made me think of Alyssa Monks, a woman who paints the female nude (herself). Breasts pressed against the glass of a shower cubicle. Distorted, but the distortion only emphasises some quality of being, brings a sense of touch to the painting, becomes erotic. But not exploitative (of the model at least), for Alyssa succeeds in removing the viewer from the outside position of observer, invites us consider the sensation of the shower, while remaining behind the glass. She, the body-observed-become-artist, takes power. In Jamie’s show of scanner art, I feel the device of the scanner can only go to a certain depth. Or maybe it’s a distance imposed by the artist, who tells us he is concerned with the distinction between art and pornography. He delves into the realm of the body, but the stylised compositions remain tasteful, veiled. And our safety zone as observers remains intact. On the one hand this may account for Jamie’s commercial success (or so I hear), on the other, it may demand a deeper insight, something more visceral.
The notion that a utopian view of the body underlies Jamie’s art is underscored in Jamie’s fundraising poster for breast cancer, also on sale at the show (£10 with £2.50 going to breast cancer research). Intriguing and pretty rather than erotic, scores of breasts are pressed against the scanner glass in bras and nude versions. But nowhere to be seen is the post-op breast. There: there is the darkness; veiled.
Jamie is adventurous in both an artistic sense and a personal sense, and I for one will be following his journey with interest.
Below – photos of the event and the works on location.
More info on the event, show dates etc: http://wp.me/p488Yn-13F
Info on Brighton Photo Fringe Festival: http://wp.me/p488Yn-14J