The naked truth: Nadav Kander, Bodies. 6 Women, 1 Man, Flowers Gallery, London
Zoe Pilger is an art critic for The Independent and winner of the 2011 Frieze International Writers Prize. Her first novel, Eat My Heart Out, will be published by Serpent's Tail in February 2014. She is also researching a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London, on the subject of romantic love and sadomasochism in the work of contemporary female artists. She has appeared on BBC's The Review Show and Sky News
Monday 14 January 2013
Nadav Kander was inspired by ideas of Elizabethan purity to create these stunning photographic portraits of six nude females and one male.
Their alabaster white skin and red-gold hair recalls the colour scheme of Queen Elizabeth I’s portraits. Her Majesty famously painted her face with Venetian ceruse, a cosmetic paste made of lead that could cause premature ageing, hair loss, teeth loosening.
The pursuit of beauty and eternal youth, the erasure of blemishes at all costs, has in the 21st century reached a new pitch of hysteria. The quest for physical perfection has changed form but it is now perhaps no less deadly.
Kander counteracts the prevailing body fascisms of today by choosing models with two attributes that are often ridiculed: they are mostly ginger and voluptuous. Against a black background, the females hide their faces while the lone male stares out at the viewer. This is a complicated kind of shame.
Reclining, curled up, or standing, their mounds of chalk-white flesh are luminous. Their skin is covered in a fine white powder that might be chalk but is in fact marble dust. The allusions to classical and renaissance sculpture are strong but not overdone. These are pictures – large and reverentially lit – in their own right.
Born in Israel but raised in South Africa, Kander, 51, has lived in London since the 1980s. He has photographed celebrities from Eric Cantona to Erin O’Connor posing as Millais’s Ophelia, and designed album covers for Take That and Snow Patrol.
He won the Prix Pictet in 2009 for Yangtze, The Long River, which explored China’s “unnatural” pace of development and the risk of estrangement from the past.
While those photographs showed nature violated, la peinture vivant, nature violated, the living painting that hangs in the stairwell of this exhibition is more ambivalent. It is a film of a reclining female nude with her back to the viewer. She too is violated, at odds with herself, but in a more subtle way.
As she begins to move, it transpires that she is composed of two films, playing in disjunction. Her top half moves at odds with her bottom half, evoking the magician’s trick of cutting a woman in two. A white mouse crawls across her thighs in profile.
Terms such as “sculptural” and “monumental” are often applied to artworks that are neither. But Kander has created an unnerving stone-like serenity in these portraits.
Until 9 Feb
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Liam Gallagher brands Kanye West 'utter s**t' during BRIT Awards performance
- 2 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 3 People who sleep more than eight hours are more likely to have a stroke, research shows
- 4 Kanye West climbs on table at Nando's to crowd chants of 'Yeezus' before Brit Awards 2015 performance of 'All Day'
- 5 New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Alien 5: Sigourney Weaver will reprise Ripley role in new movie, says director Neill Blomkamp
Madonna falls off stage at Brit Awards – and then nails her performance
Brits 2015: Pharrell Williams only non-white winner as music awards follow Oscars 'white wash'
The Reading & Leeds 2015 line-up if it only included bands with female members looks pretty sparse
Wolf Hall finale, review: Simply brilliant TV
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'