In classical art, human bodies were mainly represented in portraits and nudes, and they were very often idealized, even when they were representing actual people. Some artists were even known to paint your portrait without wrinkles (*cough* *cough*). Better than any Snapchat filters!
Contemporary artists have tried to move away from these traditions, and to paint bodies in different settings: in everyday life or imaginary situations, the human body will always carry a lot of meaning. Let us take you through some bold, yet affordable experimentations:
Liu Zheng Yong, Paper Works
, Ink on Paper, 56 x 76 cm
Armed with textured movement and a vivid sense of colour, ZhengYong channels his deep Chinese sensibilities into a distinctly western medium. To obtain sufficient tangible depth, he boldly places materials onto a partially wet canvas or paper. The blurry contour of the body and closed eyes of the figure emulate a calm serenity and a peaceful meditation, one that transports the mind to unknown territories.
Hono Sun, Spirit of Borobudur
, Acrylic on Canvas, 90 x 70 cm
In this artwork, Surrealist artist Hono Sun represents one of Indonesia’s architectural wonders, the temple of Borobudur, as it is recreated by children with apples, and carried on their shoulders while they walk on a rope. The heads disappear behind the heavy load, yet the bodies do not seem strained, or in pain. It is a tribute to the hard work that went into creating this masterpiece: the architects and all the workers are not represented, but they are suggested through the many houses present in the background.
Daisy Boman, Thoughts and emotions
, Ceramic, 41 x 7 x 41 cm
Belgian artist Daisy Boman calls her unique figures 'bo-men’ and they climb, fall, crawl, run in a process of interaction with each other. They tell stories about life, human destiny and universal feelings. Here, the ‘Bo-men’ reflect our thoughts and emotions. The figures form the shape of a brain and its stem, with the individual in the center depicted in red - the heart of passion and intensity. This figure is alone in a crowd, possibly meaning that rational thought and logic tend to overpower sentimental feelings and emotions. Humanity prizes reason over feelings in this modern day and age, but the heart is still beating, so there still is hope!
Oil on Canvas, 100 x 100 cm
Thai artist Chumsri uses extremely bold strokes to apply thick layers of paint on the canvas. From up close, her paintings seem completely abstract, a vivid juxtaposition of colours and powerful gestures, but distance will reveal motives: in this case, the portrait of a laughing young woman, with a background still open to interpretation. A snowy sky and a line of cars or abstract forms and colours? That is for you to decide!
Nurkholis, Picasso as Judge
, Acrylic on Canvas, 130 x 150 cm
Picasso has changed the face of modern art in the 20th century with his cubist paintings: he introduced a new way of representing reality by changing the common perspective, by showing us all sides of one object, even the invisible ones; in short, by playing with our perception. Indonesian artist Nurkholis is paying his tribute to the master by depicting a strange and unsettling portrait that will make us look twice before understanding it. But what if he’s not just playing with our eyes? What if he is trying, like Picasso, to show us something we cannot see, like our mind’s eyes?
Ma Dong Min, Untitled,
Oil on Canvas, 190 x 150 cm
In Ma Dong Min’s paintings, bodies and landscapes merge together. Mist, clouds, rain and mountains, natural elements that are capital to Chinese painting tradition, are present in Ma Dong Min’s work, where they subtly transform into sensual human bodies. This is a poetic reminder that youth, and life itself, are fleeting, while nature, to which we belong, is eternally reborn.