London, July 2010
Another panel from my triptych “Skin deep” has been picked up and featured on Barry Mag.
I admit their title gave me a double take, until I realised they meant it in a good way.
Running at The Wellcome Trust in Euston till the end of August is a free exhibition entitled “Skin”. Covering the gamut of skin, disease and representation.
It’s always good to see work in the flesh so to speak that one’s only seen online. Rhian Solomon is represented by her face lift mask, mentioned in my Dermatographia post, whose delicacy is for more beautifully intricate and eerie than the photograph shows. There’s also great photography from Catherine Opie, Desiree Dolron and blemished ceramics from Tasmin van Essen.
A highlight, for me at least, is not only the discovering the project “Skinbag” by Olivier Goulet, latex clothing made to resemble human hide, but also the chance to actually try on and wear quite a few of his pieces, replete with a mirror to pose in front of.
Well worth making the effort to visit.
Dermatographia is a skin condition which literally translated means “skin writing”, which produces welt like patterns where the skin is lightly scratched. Around four percent of the population is affected by it and for over ninety percent of chronic cases the cause is never discovered. Skin writing – the name is evocative enough, but for artist and photographer Ariana Page Russell who has the complaint it is the starting point in creating beautiful images which explore the decorative potential. Rather than be seen as an affliction her marking are worn like delicate lace anglaise.
Her work featured in one of my favourite art blogs Beautiful/Decay amongst others. Aside from creating beguiling imagery, she strides ahead of fashion’s current vogue for temporary tattoos. Skin marking is definitely a current meme. Commenting on the huge turnover of cosmetics companies and the attainment of status through the display of luxury brands, or more directly, the display of a brands’ logotype, art student Ryan McSorley created a skin beauty care set. The final touch after moisturising is donning a Channel stamp to sleep in, leaving an imprinted logo marking the devotees pampered skin.
Rhian Solomon uses the same technique to explore issues of body images in a series of startling works. Where Russel uses her own body’s reaction Soloman utilises her training in materials to fashion devices that leave imprints in the skin, and again photographs the residual image. Taking a sample of a fifty women, she asked what their ideal dress size would be – eight, ten, twelve… – then created a belt with their desired figure as a decal running around the length. After wearing their belt the women were left embossed, only two felt they were underweight. “Big knickers” were weaved from telephone wire, and after being worn left unsightly patterns on the skin; limbs are patterned with meat string. Fantastic work which provokes beyond the imagery.
Solomon also flips the methodology on it’s head exploring skin/clothing epidermis hybrids with cosmetic surgical procedures. With creepy results. Her work deserves much higher recognition.
Tackling skin decoration from a semi-permanent viewpoint two designers have concurrently come up with sun tattoo suits, nothing new, but their approach is to create a tribal suit rather than a transfer or tattoo effect. James Titterton creates almost Leger like illustration using vinyl stickers, while Yu-Chio Wang proposes a modified towelling bath gown and more floral patterning.
For her final project Ninette van Kemp explored sadomasochistic rituals in obtaining ideals of beauty, creating lingerie that left the previously covered flesh bearing impressions. The ascendancy of dermatographia has not gone unnoticed by actual product designers with at least three examples bubbling up to the internets surface. Martina Carpelan has produced bed sheets with lightly suggestive remarks, Jenny Pokryvailo designed a chaise lounge to leave a Japanese style carp embossing, Yoon Jung Yun’s silver ring leaves it’s inner message adorned when the jewelry is taken off.