Sep 29, 2011

TREND: Human Canvases

Danny Setiawan, Starry Night after Van Gogh, acrylic on skin, 2010.

Switching things up a bit, more and more contemporary artists are using the human figure as the canvas itself allowing the artist to create a living, breathing, self-aware masterpiece.  Thinking outside of the box a little bit, it seems that these artists wanted to take the subject/viewer aspect of artwork and combine the two into a more stimulating and sensuous experience.  The people who temporarily donate their flesh and inhibitions for the sake of art also get to experience something completely out of the ordinary. 
In its simplest form, body painting is a very primitive form of expression.  Caveman might have figured it out, but today's artists have reinvented the craft and taken it an entirely different direction.  While being painted sounds like a lot of fun, the artists have chosen to use the body to get the painting off of a flat surface such as a canvas or wall.  As no two human bodies are the exact same, the artists are given an unlimited supply of different shapes, sizes, contours, and textures to work with.  Then they have the ability to create pieces that flow naturally with the body's curves giving an extremely interesting 3d painting that can sometimes wrap all the way around the human canvas.

The image above is a painting done by Indonesian born artist Danny Setiawan onto model/canvas Cristina Leduc.  Setiawan immigrated to the Unites States in 1997, and had achieved his masters of Fine Arts in multimedia from Parsons School of Design in New York in 2003.  He now runs a studio called DEN ART NY which started when he
"experimented with body painting as a medium to increase the relevancy of his art so he can make more impact through it. Unlike the popular uses of body painting in popular culture where it is closely associated with eroticism, we use body painting to make art more relevant and engaging."  
He describes this piece as
"A tribute to Van Gogh. This is one of the pieces that I’ve recreated the most in various events.  A perfect piece to recreate as body painting because of the organic movements and lines that fit the body contour nicely."
One of my favorites from his online gallery of body paintings is the Floral UV piece, in which he used UV reactive paints to cover the front of the body from head to feet in an abstract floral pattern in neon green and orange.
Danny Setiawan, Floral UV, paint on skin, 2010.

Artist Emma Hack uses the body as a canvas in a completely different way.  She paints her nude subjects to blend into a background so well, that it is even difficult to see them at times.  Her attention to detail in covering the entire body is absolutely incredible.  Hack has been body painting for the past 20 years and her skill is obvious.  She also creates most of the backgrounds which her models camouflage into.  Take a look at more of her works on her website, and its easy to see how her unique style tricks the eye so well.
Emma Hack, Wallpaper Collections, 2008.

One of the most unique styles of body painting i have ever seen is that of hyper-realist acrylic painter Alexa Meade.  Native of Washington D.C., 25 year old Meade uses acrylics to paint her subjects to look as if the were part of the painting/background behind them.  She states
"In my current work, I construct and then photograph ephemeral installation sets that feature an assemblage of found objects and live models, which I have covered in layers of acrylic paint. I paint the surfaces of the human subjects, the material objects, and the architecture of the installations so as to collapse the subject, foreground, and background into one continuous plane."
As noticed in the image below, she uses harsh brush strokes to provide a little bit of abstraction as well as a way for the subject to blend in easier with the background.  Also, her work requires a certain perspective to view the final piece as it was meant to be. In the video below, she will demonstrate her technique and reasoning for her pieces.
Alexa Meade, Jamie.

Alexa Meade, Blue Man, 2010.

While all of these mentioned artists are very different in their technique, their medium of choice happens to be the same: the extraordinary human body.  I feel this allows the viewer to get a more personal feeling from these works and relate more closely to the humanistic qualities of each painted person.   

-  Taylor Brown

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