‘Instead of hairy legs, we have waxed vaginas; the free-flying natural women boobs of yore have been hoisted with push-up bras or ‘enhanced’ into taut plastic orbs that stand perpetually at attention. What has moved into feminism’s place as the most pervasive phenomenon is an almost opposite style, attitude, and set of principles.’ Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs
Dadiani Fine Art is pleased to present our new exhibition by Kelly-Anne Davitt: Beach Balls and Melons. A young British painter and feminist, Davitt graduated from London Guildhall University with a degree in Fine Art, shortly after she was selected by the National Portrait Gallery to exhibit in the BP Portrait Award. Her practice is a combination of common consumer familiarity with a detailed artistic mastery which gives this work its recognisable quality.
Beach Balls and Melons is a series of oil paintings which depict what Davitt sees as the media’s version of a modern day female nude. A tanned, waxed, young girl with large, round, fake breasts, eager to please; overtly sexualised with unreal and exaggerated proportions, joyously happy to hand herself over to her audience.
The compositions are inspired by images from Nuts magazine, including the model’s poses, facial expressions and the vibrant colour backgrounds. Davitt was drawn to the images that attempt to convey feelings of sincerity and joy, with exaggerated poses and expressions, strained and often ridiculous as can be seen in ‘Holding Boobs’ where the model cups her giant breasts as if to physically hand them over to her audience.
For the source material photographs, a photo-shoot with top glamour model, Sophie Reade was organised. The way Sophie looks is key to the work. With her oversized breasts and tiny waist, she is illustrative of hyper-sexual, distorted image of women. Yet she also maintains a sweetness of the girl-next-door with her great smile, brilliant teeth and shiny hair. Thematically, Kelly explores page three and glamour photography but still maintains elements of classic aesthetics. Sophie Reade is the perfect combination of both.
Through this series of oil paintings, Davitt explores the boundaries of distorting the female form. By building up strata of rich colour and attention to detail, she has used her oil painting to Photoshop and perform plastic surgery; widening the eyes for a more doe-like appearance, smoothing out and creating peachier skin tones, enlarging, uplifting and rounding of the breasts, her cheeks and nipples deeper, rosier pinks. Yet the subtle pigment intonations and the veins inkling from beneath the paling skin is where Davitt exercises another kind of sensitivity:
“During the painting process, I found that in smoothing out skin tones and trying to idealise too much was beginning to clash with the hyper-real quality of the work. In order to make things look real, there must be imperfections. The more I took them away, the harder it was for me to achieve the sense of realism that I like within my work. This, I think, is an interesting reflection on this topic of hypersexual images of women or these types of representations of female sexuality: this distorted image of the female form.”
Davitt plays with the contrast of the playful pop-like appearance from the vibrancy of the colours, against the weightiness of the subject matter. Colour and attention to detail could help an audience engage with a subject they may find in bad taste.
Kelly plays with articles and images which amuse her from various media. In ‘The Formula For Perfect Breasts’ (2015 circus lights and mixed media) is inspired by an article in The Sun about a doctor who claims to have found just that, naming Kelly Brook as an example.
“Our fascination with fine tuning women’s bodies is both outrageous and ridiculously silly. I wanted to illuminate its absurdity by re-appropriating the text into a fairground style which reflected its nonsensical nature. So I brazenly put it in lights designing the most over-the-top animated light sculpture I could come up with.”Kelly-Anne Davitt
Kelly provokes conversation about the hyper-sexual images of women in media. Images whose over-the-top facial expressions, suggestive poses and exaggerated proportions are more ‘like parodies of female sexual power’ rather than expressions of them. Her intention was to illuminate their comical and ridiculous elements by re-appropriating the images into an art context as oil paintings, taking them from the shelf or the internet and putting them on the walls of a gallery. In producing work that appears to objectify and sexualise women, she challenges and explores the many conflicting opinions, assumptions and prejudices about what is coyly named the glamour industry.
‘The purpose of women’s liberation is to liberate women, not defend our superior capacity for abstinence ….. If feminists define pornography per se as the enemy, the result will be to make a lot of women ashamed of their sexual feelings and be afraid, to be honest about them. And the last thing we need is more sexual shame, guilt and hypocrisy – this time served up as feminism.’ Ellen Willis, No More Nice Girls