Updated: Aug 10, 2021
I'm excited to announce that my painting "My Dear" has been selected as a finalist for the 2017 OBI Art Prize. You may be wondering what this painting is about. So here is the short answer: it's about turning traditional gender roles on their head.
It started with a jewellery advertisement in a popular women's fashion magazine (this here is the long version). The advertisement depicted a beautiful blond, passively holding a red apple whilst standing next to a stag. I found the composition unsettling considering that women & apples together usually don’t go so well. Take the story of Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit (often represented as an apple) or Snow White and the poison apple, for example. Such imagery is well known in Western cultures.
The presence of the stag is unusually a symbol of male strength and virility. What exactly is this image trying to tell the female audience? Perhaps it is implying that to attract the virile male stag, she must accept the poisonous apple? Or less literally, she needs a man to buy her jewellery.
I decided to explore the subliminal messaging in this advertisement by playing with the imagery. Firstly, by giving the woman a gun and stag horns, she is put in a position of power. The addition of a red coloured dress endows her with female virility and sexual prowess.
However, despite appearing more commanding, the woman remains somewhat repressed by her white apron and the ominous male figure in the background (who is perhaps unaware of his potentially impending demise). The foreboding nature of the painting is exemplified by the hunting toile fabric used in the background and the text written in black. The toile shows a traditional hunting scene of men on horseback with dogs hunting down the stag. The additional text on the male reads “pass me my gun deer.” Together these elements add tension to the composition and question who is the hunted and who is hunter?
The painting references old fashioned values and traditional gender roles whereby the woman lives in domestic servitude (hence the apron) and the man goes out into the world (represented by the male figure wearing a hat). In this world a woman is expected to obey. By placing the gun in her hands the power dynamic is challenged. Despite the threat of violence, the woman remains calm & serene. She must rise above the chaos, her head held high. You go girl!
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