January 31, 2020

What does it mean to paint oneself?

Thyme James, 23

The act of painting is a heavily charged gesture; paint is symbolically recognised as high art and tradition – conjuring ideas of the great (male) artist as presented by Linda Nochlin in 1971. This idea that only men can be “great artists”, further re-enforced by the fact only 32% of artists represented by commercial galleries in London are women, with even fewer receiving solo shows in major institutions, despite women making up 64% of people studying the arts in the UK. This disparity one I believe necessary to challenge in an age where marginalisation seemingly continues perpetually despite the cries for social reform. Catherine Woods suggests “Painting is a practice that women have owned for a long time”, through the practice of makeup. Women are taught by society to paint faces, serving as a transformative medium to comply to the male gaze/patriarchal ideals. The prevalence of the internet and sites like YouTube allow for an abundance of tutorials, furthering our knowledge and understanding of this medium. Both paint and make-up possess transformative qualities, as a result when one applies paint to the body it becomes the canvas and presents self as art, the subject retaining their autonomy and agency.

Verum Larvatum (Masked Truth), 2019Video