What I thought these images were about when I started:
stylish, visually exciting pictures portraying romantic, idealised relationships between men and women. Safe, comforting, soothing.
What I discovered, more questions than answers:
Although the images are idealised they are not empty. To my surprise, what I found was a lot more about basic desires / urges. There was a strong subversive element to these images, hidden beneath the surface.
These are pictures designed to draw in and entice the female gaze (as opposed to the classic male gaze on the female nude as described by John Berger in “A Way of Seeing”)
The men are generic and ciphers. The female is centre stage and in control (even if she superficially appears not to be).
These images are all about (female) sex, aggression and power.
I think that it is this hidden complexity that makes the images so appealing, the double messages, on the surface something safe and conventional, beneath the surface dealing with very powerful and basic instincts. These images show us what women wanted to look at in the 1960’s, a time when women were just starting to feel more powerful, I wonder if similar imagery today would be more overt, less coded?
I also wondered about how the images were made. My assumptions about this are that the illustrator would hire models, and set up scenarios for them to ‘act out”, like a tableau. So there were probably all sorts of factors at play here, the model’s own unconscious body language or expressions perhaps captured by the skill of the illustrator. So an interplay of deliberate plus unconscious motivations behind the pictures.
Retrospective Brief / Research Question
The client wants you to produce a project based on the work of selected illustrators from the lifestyle magazines of the 1960’s.
The aim of the project is to try to understand what makes these works so attractive / seductive firstly to their original readers but also in the present day, to be worth collecting and drawing together into book.
I will approach this brief by selecting 12 images by illustrators whose work appeals to me and reproducing them. I will explore the strong graphic and painterly qualities of the work through deconstruction and reinterpretation in collage. By using a tearing method (except for very fine bits) I will be hugely simplifying each work,drawing together the various elements that have a visual connection, either by shape or colour. I will have to make decisions about the importance of details that the illustrator has used in the work and whether to include them or not.
This has been a surprising project to get drawn into. It has been an incredibly satisfying piece of work, which has for the first time brought together my interest in the human psyche (I thought to myself “you can take the woman out of psychiatry but you can’t take psychiatry out of the woman”, psychiatry being my former career), my personal collage work (which has previously been “mute”), my line drawings and love of whimsy (with the captions).
I think that the issue of time was important here. In the first half, I spent a lot of time “messing about” with this, and of course, I have been creating collaged images for years. In the second half, I then felt under extreme time pressure to complete some work and I think that is what coalesced the separate strands of my working into the finished piece, so unlimited time plus no time at all.
Whether or not the final outcome works 100% or is a “good” piece of art work doesn’t feel important to me (and I do feel I could keep on fiddling with details) as it definitely feels like a PERSONAL BEST piece of work, a direct follow on from Assignment 3 “Keeping the Faith” and a marker on my road.