The physical body was once seen as a mysterious vessel which was vulnerable to many unexplained diseases and endlessly subject to only divine will. Modern surgical techniques have changed the way people conceive of their bodies to the extent that we now have individuals making their own choices and being informed about how they can change their own bodies.
Contemporary technological advances have expanded our view of the possible and our exposure to the vast continuum of normalcy has broadened our ability to conceptualize, alter and present our visions. The mystique around the body has been removed, consequently artists who deal with the body politic are reveling in the unleashing of novel corporeal themes. Cleaving the Body was put together as a forum for examination of such themes in our new age. The artists that are included in this exhibition all deal with issues related to the body such as: transgression, marginalization, objectification, degradation and alteration of the body.
Bart Gazzola's work is about the socially invested body and the inherent paradoxes of its social constructs. His fascination with body images comes from his past research into the subversive physicality of Christ figures; both in history and practice. Gazzola's work deals with the dualistic attitudes that exist about the body, in that it can be seen as both sacred and profane; both beautifully high art yet pornographically unruly. Gazzola works in digital imaging where he is able to redefine sampled images and texts by transforming repulsive items into beautiful ones; sometimes preserving the disturbing undertones to complete his social commentary.
Brian Piitz uses his photoworks to subvert the sexual status quo which has its roots in the classic male gaze that falls upon the female model. By inserting his unadorned maleness into traditionally feminine sets he embraces the vulnerability inherent in putting his own duality on display and celebrates the worthiness of the ordinary man. His images portray the gift of the body and scorn our human tendencies to try to define, encode and tame it.
Helena Wadsley's paintings aim to push the representation of the body away from objectification and eroticisation into a realm where there is a greater awareness of the sensations and experiences (emotional and physical) by which the body is affected. She explores the way skin is touched, held, stroked, felt, pinched, pulled or squeezed and the subsequent way that the body's identity or rationale swings from the abject and functional to the site of pleasure, pain or the confusion where two extremes intersect. Her work reflects and analyses how the body spends a lifetime growing, reproducing, decaying, and searching for the place where meaning and pleasure conjoin in a transcendental experience which negates the body in favour of the soul.
Kevin Whitfield finds that his art is enriched by drawing not only from his personal experiences but the life experiences of others. In his textile-based work he attempts to join actual life histories with bodily representations which he creates by knitting second skins for his subjects that incorporate the words of the individuals directly into the fabric. His work reflects a poignant commentary on the meaningless nature of text on modern, mass produced clothing. Concurrently, through knitting the body he weaves the threads of individual stories together with body sizes and symbolism to imbue his projects with the essence of each unique life.