So here it is… My final piece for my degree show titled “Be a Sturdy Oak” .. The title is reference to one of David and Brannon’s standards of masculinity.
Initially inspired by advertising media’s portrayal of the male form and the fetishised masculinity it employs, my work is an exploration of the uncertainties of masculinity as a social construct and what this means to be a man in todays society. The lines of gender roles are blurring and it is no longer clear what is expected from young men, producing facades, insecurities and frustrations as a byproduct. As a mode of exploration I have used self portraiture to attempt to decode my own role as a man and my personal sense of masculinity. As an ideology, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is to be masculine; the more one looks into it the more fleeting it can appear to be. My work expresses the relationship between vulnerability and the defiance of the alpha male, a relationship that amplifies the fragility of the masculine masquerade.
The modern mechanisation of conflicts and industrial production have decreased the importance of the male body as a productive or heroic figure, changing the function of male societal roles and identities. These changes have been exaggerated by capitalist trends and the marketing of products, such as clothes and cosmetics, which have turned the modern man from a point of production to one of consumption. Accompanied by an increased sexualisation of the male body as a fetish object, proliferated by the media’s objectification of the “perfect” male body. These modern pressures are leading men to be much more aware and critical of their bodies and appearance. Resulting in many more cases of mental health and body image issues in young men than ever before. Harry Brod suggests that “…much of the present cultural anxiety about the erosion of masculinity (really the erosion of patriarchy) focuses on the male body.
It is important to remember that visual media offers us highly manipulated images of the human form. A point my work references through a process of photography and digital manipulation to generate a fractured representation of the male body. My body specifically has become a symbol within my work aiming to highlight the cutting gaze of the world around us by reworking and fragmenting figurative imagery, and employing a physicality within the final step of manually reproducing and editing the images is an integral part of my process. My body directly engaging with a representation of a body. Allowing a tangible connection between myself and the work, on a level deeper than aesthetics. Angles, straight lines and cutting intersections specifically avoid the curved contours of the body producing an ambiguity of the form and identity of the sitter. I chose to work on raw plywood; as a construction material, it has an association with masculinity, and is a material that at times works against the painting process. Charing the surface not only serves to exaggerate the texture of the wood, but to distress and deepen the picture space, throwing the figures towards the observer and activating the surface. The use of blue in my work has become not only key in the aesthetic of the work but also as reference to the notion that blue is a “boy’s colour”. Although anchored to the wall, the work exists on a plane separate from it, meeting the viewer within the space. As a triptych the planes intersect to form a whole, however each pictorial space has its own identity and references pictorial conventions of display that relate to the body of the observer. The horizontal panel at eye level suggest the existence of a body obscured from view; the square panel contains a crouching figure, hung low, looking up; and finally the vertical panel sits high and looks down upon the viewer ’s opposing gaze.