Material Bodies: Studies of the Nude
The work in this section is selected from a series of Izzi Ramsay’s projects. The photographs here all belong to larger groups which she has exhibited throughout the UK. The whole is a complex and provocative body of work, comprising both male and female nudes, produced over a number of years. It seeks both to raise and to challenge doubts about visual explorations of the male and female form, and attempts to subvert conventional presumptions about the nude by disrupting audience’s suppositions.
The portrayal of the male nude is imbued with a touch of both wit and fetishism and helps to distract us from the assumptions which customarily attach to female representations. An androgynous treatment of the body generates a sense of morphing from male to female, which is incongruous and disturbs our perceptions.
Predominant representations of the female nude carry assumptions of youth, health and vitality: they subscribe to a fixed and limited preconception of beauty, and they covertly define and promote an ideal. Here the invisibility of the used and aged body is addressed through the pleasures and sensuality of the ‘non-ideal’. Large scale close-ups of the body are constructed as landscapes, employing fragmentation and condensation to create a more abstract form. They offer a view of the body which is both gargantuan in proportion and delicate in its sensitivity of treatment with the gentle play of light and shadow on the female form.
Masks are used on both the male nude (The Horseman) and the female nude (Lupine Woman). Here again a sense of morphing — now from human to animal — is produced. The photographs in the Morphe collection play with the idea of animal/human, and are a response to, though by no means a comment upon, recent controversial rulings of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to allow the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos.
Narrative texts, which were written anonymously by the subjects in the photographs, form an integral part of the work. These were displayed alongside the photographs when the work was on exhibition. Their purpose is to disrupt and recontext¬ualise perceptions of the nude — to re-present a socio-historical identity in the body; this creates a dynamic interaction between the audience, image and text. Extracts from these narratives are reproduced at the back of the book.
The printing process is important to the reception and understanding of the work. The photographic papers used have certain anomalies and imperfections, which, when treated with chemicals, react to give the work a textured and grainy surface. This reaction results in prints whose outcomes are indeterminate and can never be reproduced exactly. Consequently each print is unique. This process, which has been incorporated into the makeup of the body of work as a whole and informs the present reproductions, creates an affect that complements the imperfections of the human body.