Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Marcel van der Vlugt - Handling his own addiction

The quest for beauty is considered to be the central theme of the work of Marcel van der Vlugt, seen here.  The nude or bandaged bodies are inspired by the the visual language of  the fashion and advertising industry,  while various aspects of beauty, such as beauty ideals, transitoriness and marketability, and the cliche image of beauty so commonly used in advertising is shattered.  Beauty is a term primarily employed in fashion magazines; the alluring advertisement photographs show beautiful young women representing the eternal ideal of beauty, but Van der Vlugt examines another aspect of the term beauty in the series ‘I like....'.   Giving his models a second skin, consisting of cocoa powder, salmon or cheese, Van der Vlugt speaks of hidden appetites and desires, but ultimately of decay and the loss of beauty through time.  In doing so the model of perfectionism is destroyed in his work, instead of the finest care products, he decorates his model with pastes, sludges and littering composed of materials from his own addiction and stimulant arsenal: coffee, chocolate, sugar, licorice, ham, cola, etc.

With these unaccustomed substances, Van der Vlugt transforms the models' faces, although by aligning so closely with mainstream beauty culture he is also sanitizing the radical symbolism of the transformative power of product application.  In doing so the viewer is left questioning whether these materials and products can retain some of their transformative power after becoming a part of beauty culture.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Illamasqua Body Electric. New takes on skin contact

The point of this blog was always to reflect a variety of inspirations that indicate how our understanding of the decoration of the face and body has moved on, subsequently it is not always about the final image.  Discussing product innovations is just as important to form an impression of how we wish to communicate our design intentions, so it is interesting to find that the cosmetic brand Illamasqua are attempting to address the desire to reflect skin surface as a canvas by launching their first collection of make-up for the whole body.

Inspired by the power of kinetic energy and the fluidity of the body in motion, the Illamasqua Body Electrics range "ignites the skin with intensity and highlights the body's every twist and turn to exquisite perfection."  Designed to highlight and contour the whole body, the intention is to to accentuate every movement and take body make-up to a whole new level.  This urge to decorate the human body could be seen as an attempt to adopt and adapt universal symbolism from primitive or exotic arts in much the same way that many Twentieth Century artists have explored this 'decoration', the German expressionists and Picasso are the most immediate examples that come to mind.
 The fundamental purpose of decorating the human body at nodal sites - head neck chest,waist, arm, wrist, knee and ankle - is to reinforce their vital energy.
Rawson P , Rawson P. 2005. Art and Time. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p.114

This revised focus on cosmetics for the body questions whether this desire to decorate or modify the body is an attempt to impart spiritual or aesthetic energy, a reflection of our fear that the 'body' has lost much of its affect on the environment because of our dependence on virtual communication and an attempt to reconnect to the 'disappearing body' (Kroker and Kroker, 'Body Writing' in Body Invaders, p 223).

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Making Eyes - Douglas Gordon

Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright and Douglas Gordon the darkly inventive Scottish film artist, conspired to produce these haunting tour visuals, in which Wainwright flutters his kohl-splashed eye for a camera shooting at 1,000 frames per second.  Without the maquillage, it is impossible to envisage the effect so beautifully arrived at.  Again, it is the made up face that is particularly evocative, signalling emotive conclusions that would be far more arbitary without the cosmetic construction.

Charlie Le Mindu

Making hair bags and jewellery desirable, Charlie Le Mindu continues to dominate our catwalk dreams.  His models walk down the runway adorned in layers of hair and black lace, with nods towards Le Mindu’s love of taxidermy and the macabre evident in his collection. He has a love of wigs and clearly understands they can change how the body is perceived as whole, indeed comments surrounding his work suggest that the presentation of contrived concepts within the sphere of hair design is more than just 'fashion'. 

The collection really pushed the boundaries of fashion and beauty as it made the viewers assess just how much these aspects complement each other as the beauty pieces used here create the look rather than enhance it, which is a lovely take on how style has evolved.

Gregory Dean - Hair Art

Gregory Dean - Creative stylists, Ben Gregory and Dean Beavis, work together, under the name Gregory Dean, to merge hair with art. Their wealth of talent, original ideas and eye for details has enabled them to create some truly amazing styles for editorial, catwalk and film. But the most interesting element about their work is that they see hair as a textile to work with, heightening its traditional associations with the body as a tactile material.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Erwin Olaf ponders the changing face of beauty

Plot: Le Dernier cri (2006)

Photographer and filmmaker Erwin Olaf ponders the changing face of beauty and the whims of fashion (the title translated, is 'the latest fashion; last word') in this experimental short comedy. A suburban hostess prepares her home for a social gathering, making sure everything is spotless and nothing is out of place. All seems picture perfect until we get a glimpse of the extensive facial modifications of the hostess and her guests. Le Dernier Cri was screened in competition at the 2007 ~Rotterdam International Film Festival.  In light of the increasing casualisation of cosmetic surgical modification Olaf considers the normalisation of what is  currently seen as 'extreme'. The fashionisation of cosmetic intervention has begun!

le dernier cri from Dennis Braunsdorf on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A hint of things to come.

The use of make up to visually engage the viewer in innovative ways is clearly seen here in the music video for Marina and the Diamonds, 'I Am Not A Robot' directed by Rankin & Chris Cottam.  Clearly a forerunner of things to come in terms of styling.

Cosmetically Applied Colour

I found these images for the 'Spray Collection' on Trendhunter, and they brought to mind the way colour can be used to causally inform smaller details, textures and form. While colour can be been applied to the face, body and hair to enhance their existing qualities, in doing so it can be used to explore the relationship between the body and cosmetics, the woman and her image, the signified and the signifier.  Here we may start of with the image of a contemporary stylised geisha as a cultural construction, but it is evolving.  Subsequently it is important to consider how artists are now redefining images women that have historically been fabricated by men.

Monday, 5 April 2010


EMXXYcam from Pamela Reed + Matthew Rader on Vimeo.

Part of a series of 5 films, EMXXYcam is an intriguing presentation of the face as mask by design duo Reed+Radar.  Since we can understand the body as a textless text into which outside meanings are read, the cosmetic construction in EMXXYcam can be read as a result of social manufacture, in that it is a social expression or performance by which the sitters constructed identity is valued, created, tested, and confirmed.  Only now the responsibility for mean making is placed as much upon the reader as upon the text itself. 

Here, Reed+Radar have chosen to take control of the text to interpret it as their own, giving the cosmetic constructions in each EMXXYcam video a unique meaning.

EMXXYcam from Pamela Reed + Matthew Rader on Vimeo.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Dove takes a dive

Sometimes I go a little crazy with the industry advice to look as natural as possible, particularly when the advice is coming from a company whose whole purpose is to sell you a product range that will facilitate that 'natural look'.

Caught on film - Van Beirendonck and Hess

So far, cosmetic application, with a few exceptions, is seen as a static representation caught by the camera lens or illustrated on paper.  I would like to see more 3-dimensional representations, which is why I often seek images on film.  Cosmetic discourse has to include how the body and face of the wearer acts and reacts within the applied cosmetic skin that is constructed.  It is also important to gauge the reaction of others, without their discourse as part of the journey, the understanding of the impact of the choice of visual representation made by the wearer would be limited.  I have chosen to show the work of Walter van Beirendonck and Bart Hess as way in to this dicussion, it may not have all the answers but it does highlight some of the possibilities.

No longer the poor relative

Photographs, no matter how altered or retouched, will always have some association with reality and by association truth. I like to think of them (Fashion Illustrations) as prose poems and having more fictional narratives.  They are more obviously filtered through an individual vision than photos. Illustration lives on, but in the position of a poor relative
Laird Borrelli, author of Fashion Illustration Now 
The work of Julie Verhoeven is indicative of the cosmetic design and illustration crossover.
I find it interesting that the links between fashion illustration and fashion styling are becoming closer,  and that it is in the arena of cosmetic alteration that illustrators are beginning to define a new vehicle of exploration.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Chlorophyll Skin

Chlorophyll Skin from Lucy McRae on Vimeo.

An experimentation into color, movement, absorption and the body
A joint project by Lucy McRae and Mandy Smith

Peristaltic Skin Machine

Peristaltic Skin Machine from Lucy McRae on Vimeo.

Lucy McRae and Mike Pelletier work together for the first time on a machine that redefines the bodys surface. The Peristaltic Skin Machine is an experimentation on the body with liquid, air, speed and color

LucyandBart - Field Essays Publication

Field Essays Publication (Lucyandbart) from Lucy McRae on Vimeo.

The publication Field Essays analyses how behaviour constantly shapes the ways, in which our body interacts with the world and vice versa. The absurd human enhancements of LucyandBart, which let the skin perform as an intimate interface with the material world, are presented alongside an essay by the Polish philosopher Marek Pokropski.

Drag Goddess: A woman dressing as a man, dressing as a woman

Playing with notion of gender identity is Holestar, a woman dressing up as a man, dressing as a fabulous, flamboyant woman. "Celebrating exaggerated symbols of femininity, reclaiming elaborate feminine codes from drag queens to the female body and subverting expectations", it is interesting that Holestar does this through the acquisition of make up and hair, historically used to provide self-confidence and sociability when wearing customary cosmetics.

Gendered categories of "masculinity" and "femininity" are socially constructed concepts and societal ideals about an appropriate masculine or feminine behavior vary from culture to culture, depending upon various socio-historical circumstances (eg. Butler 1990). In other words, what is considered "socially appropriate" behavior for a female or male (today) is not the same as a century ago.  Holestar acknowledges this through her performances and subverts  expectations of what is permissable for a male to female performer, and those that are permissable for a 'flamboyant woman'. 

  1. Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.