PERFORMANCE: 30 OCTOBER 6 – 8pm
oil on board
124 cm x 170 cm
In this exhibition each artwork functions symbolically to construct a church from an alternate history. A crowd of foil inflatables signifies a congregation. The paintings that line the walls on either side of the gallery function as feminine Saints. A performance work (on the opening night) portrays a crucified God.
These religious icons are traditionally used to articulate spiritual revelation. Here though they are mutated and metamorphosed to convey the disorientating sensation of ‘faith not found’; this God will remain un-resurrected, this congregation helium inflated.
The feminine Saints that line the walls are painted from photographs, hand-held photo shoots that took place in Indonesian roadside motel rooms and quickly on back alley lawns. They are set up to reference the institution of pornography and patriarchal objectification. This is how I hollow out and subvert the holiness of the Saint, it is a means to evoke the sense of ‘faith not found’, but it is also a way that I elevate the seemingly degraded and self-objectified female to Sainthood.
In examining the relationship between sex and faith I have also been considering the proximity of the orgasm to death, spiritual revelation and transcendence. Introducing the notion of orgasming against inflatables is my way of having the transcendence that I perceive the orgasm to represent fall short and fail, by positioning it alongside something so cheap and literally hollow.
These are metaphors, not for loss of faith, but for the pursuit of faith, and how unsettling the sensations that arise from that pursuit can be.
The sub heading [Internalising the pervert/or re-building the body psyche] refers to the way in which I have used this work to examine my swinging perspective on female self-objectification.
On one hand, I consider myself a female who has unconsciously internalised my perception of the male psyche. I adopt the hegemonic value system, appropriating the dominate gaze, and reflecting this process back to the viewer as they move through the cathedral, being placed in the position of the devout.
When I consider this perspective I understand how the loss of the feminine can be implicit in the adoption of the masculine, but because it is unconscious and because I am it now, I would consider myself a new alien amalgamation (of the feminine psyche and a feminine perception of the masculine psyche) rather than a space where something has been lost.
This amalgamation is different from actually being male in several ways. Firstly my perception of the male psyche, aside from being unique to my experience, comes from the position of being an outsider and having limited access. Secondly because I am a woman physically and consciously I give myself free rein over the female body in a way that men largely don’t post-feminism.
However, sometimes my thinking shifts, and I perceive the self-objectification that plays out in this work to be a way of increasing sexual agency. Had there been the opportunity for a female gaze historically, it may have looked like this cathedral. Would not a portion of the female gaze have overlapped with the male gaze? In this work I am asserting a feminine claim on that portion.
These two contradictory perspectives are a product of my particular situation. Unlike those who examine gender stereotypes from the position of the misfit, I look out from within, unable to completely reject (or embrace) the construct that I am subject to. My process is to navigate the way in which I am simultaneously sexualised (by an exterior force) and sexual (from an interior force), both object and subject. Because it is navigating the boundary between the interior and the exterior that is key to forming identity.
– Sophia Hewson, 2014