Malerie Marder: Carnal Knowledge

The American artist examines human intimacy by photographing friends and family undressed

Matilda Battersby
Friday 08 April 2011 11:20
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Carnal knowledge, a euphemism for sexual intercourse, is also the title of American artist Malerie Marder’s exhibition at London’s Blain|Southern which opened this week.

The term is appropriate for a body of work (if you’ll forgive the pun) which examines human nakedness from a perspective of intimacy that is usually only found between lovers.

She explores the psychosexual undertow in close relationships by photographing herself and friends and family in the nude, often in seedy settings such as pay-by-the-hour motels.

Click here or on the image to preview the exhibition in pictures Warning! Contains nudity

Marder’s work is characterised by the beauty and clear narratives it captures. Her photographs are real portraits of human physicality, but the careful lighting,(the black and white images, in particular) and stylisation softens the realism.

“I don’t think people are shocked by nudity when it is in a painting or sculpture,” Marder said in an interview. “But photography is quite different because it’s so grounded in the real. This is a shifting principle, of course, but photography is still connected with ideas of truth, which makes it rather unnerving [for sitters].”

Despite exhibiting pictures of herself undressed, Marder confesses to being shy about the process and says there’s a certain level of “masochism” involved. “I hate being the centre of attention. I know that sounds ridiculous given the nature of some of my images. But when I’m taking the pictures I’m not thinking of the outcome. There’s a certain level of denial, I suppose.”

Carnal Knowledge accompanies a book of the same title published by Violette Editions. Marder’s most recent project is called Anatomy for which she has been photographing prostitutes and their customers in a Rotterdam brothel.

‘Carnal Knowledge’ is at the Blain|Southern gallery, 21 Dering Street, London until 21 April, blainsouthern.com

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