A review of the Guy Bourdin exhibition at Somerset House

The fashion and fetish image maker extraordinaire Guy Bourdin currently has his biggest ever UK exhibition on show at London’s Somerset House. Guy Bourdin: Image Maker has been curated by academic and curator Alistair O’Neill with Shelly Verthime and the exhibition sees the French photographer’s career carefully laid out for the visitor to see his evolution from amateur painter, protégé of Man Ray to fashion photographer of iconic grandeur of the second half of the twentieth century told through his compulsive creation of images of glamorous women in disturbing scenarios.

Bourdin was known as a photographer doused in a controversial history due to his obsession with fetishising his female subjects in a subtle but almost violent way. This exhibition shows over 100 original prints of some of his most groundbreaking photographs as well as his paintings, polaroid’s, drawings and films. The incomparable glamour of the 1970s woman was catalysed by Bourdin but it was in his genius that he was able to turn this desirable beauty into something twisted and perverse but simultaneously make these images into objects of consumerism.

This exhibition mainly shows his work for Vogue and advertising campaigns for the likes of shoe designer Charles Jourdan, however what was truly fascinating about Bourdin was his ability to create utterly surreal photographs which strayed a million miles away from anything ever invented within fashion photography before.

Often compared to his contemporary Helmut Newton who also reveled in sexualising his models into his own personal fantasy, Bourdin’s images are far more difficult to decipher. The exhibition introduces us to the fact that Bourdin was a protégé of Man Ray which becomes more and more understandable as the exhibition progresses. The similarities between Ray and Bourdin certainly exist within the fetishisation of certain body parts and strange crops [...]


John Waters presents Beverly Hills John at the Marianne Boesky gallery

 

John Waters has just opened his latest exhibition of artworks subverting our contemporary cultures obsession with celebrity at the Marianne Boesky gallery in New York. I was going to write something about it but after reading what Waters’ said about the exhibition to Artforum I realised that no one could really bother saying anything better about it than from the man himself.

“BECAUSE CELEBRITY IS the only obscenity left in the art world, it’s a subject I’ve had to make fun of and use. I titled this show “Beverly Hills John” because I’m in between pictures, and I don’t have a current box office profile in Hollywood. The press release image is me with the worst face-lift you could ever possibly get. I tried to imagine myself as if I’ve lost all reason. Many rich people in Beverly Hills look the same; they’re like one science fiction race. But Beverly Hills isn’t exactly known for having impeccable taste and God knows neither am I, so there’s no put-down—I’m just marveling. All the work in the show addresses Hollywood in some way. I’m dealing with my idols, show business, art business, sexual attraction, racial issues, and tabloids. Witty is always fine in the art world, but is funny acceptable too? It’s a thin line.

Jean Genet has always been one of my idols. The original headstone to his grave was stolen and never found. So I fantasized that I had stolen it and kept it hidden all these years. Of course, what actually happened was I made it for the show. Genet would like it if somebody stole his headstone and sold it, don’t you think? Betrayal was his favorite compliment.

I’ve always had this little eight-and-a-half-inch ruler that [...]


Hugh Sheldon’s tattoos

Hugh Sheldon is the London based tattooer who specialises in traditional tattooing bringing in his own edge of precision, angular lines and a kind comforting cleanness to timeless designs.  Graduating with a degree in Illustration from Bristol in 2011, he started tattooing two and a half years ago working in his first shop in Cheltenham at No Regrets. Since then he moved to London eighteen months ago when the East London shop Cloak and Dagger opened. Besides from being big fans of his work here at Sang Bleu we are also envious of his exceptional collection of tattoos, so he came to see us at the studio to go through some of his favourites with us.

 

Valerie Vargas

Eagle, snake and Dragon back piece

I had this back piece finished around a year ago and it took five sessions spanning a year. Valerie is a person who I’ve followed ever since I started getting tattooed because her execution and drawings are amazing so I wanted to dedicate the biggest part of my body to her.

Stuart G Cripwell 

Panther Head and Rose

I got this done three years ago at the London convention and Stuart is probably one of the nicest people that I’ve ever been tattooed by which makes me love the tattoo even more. I’m really attracted to his work because it looks super classic and old. I especially love his colour palette which is so defined to his work.

Javi Rodriguez

Hammerhead shark and skull

When I was guesting at LTW in Barcelona in June 2014, Javi tattooed this on me on one of the evenings I was there. I love how bold, graphic and stripped back Javi’s tattoos are, especially the way he creates images [...]


Talking about Ugliness, Excess and Confrontation with Lydia Lunch

Ever since her teens, Lydia Lunch has been an artist who has celebrated fierce ugliness, excess and confrontation. Intensely charismatic, she has worked with some of the most celebrated musicians, filmmakers and poets of a generation: Vivienne Dick, Nick Cave, Vincent Gallo, Carla Bozulich. A self-proclaimed ‘cattle prodder’ intent on espousing militantly anarchist ideals to inspire those ‘without the time or inclination to read a fucking book,’ we spoke to her about what beauty means to her in her life, performance and music.

 

You’ve said before that what you believe in comes down to truth, beauty, love and filth…

 

The basics! As someone who focuses artistically on the negative, the pummeling and brutality that we, as individuals, as women, as human beings, are forced into as this planet becomes more brutarian and arrogant and patriarchal, the only real rebellion is to really embrace beauty and pleasure. To reclaim it with as much vigor as possible. I’m a complete hedonist. I think that hedonism is getting back to the garden, and that’s what women are meant to be: we are physically meant to espouse an essence that is beautiful. I said to the audience at a show a few months ago, ‘you’ll never be as ugly as I am’ and I said it with great glee because extreme ugliness of that sort is also quite beautiful. Beauty is not a shallow thing, it’s all in what you see, how you accept. I always felt like my physicality was a grand cosmic ruse and if you really knew what I looked like it’d be Biggie Smalls or Medusa – a black, 300lb Medusa.

 

A lot of your work is almost overwhelming, speaks to something instinctual. Your stuff with Teenage Jesus is so full-on and there’s [...]


Hank Wood and the Hammerheads at the Montague Arms by Joe Skilton

In December New York’s punk band Hank Wood and The Hammerheads played at The Montague Arms in Peckham. So Joe Skilton came with us to take photos and this is what they look like.

 


KESH – Live Lines today at Sang Bleu

Artist Kesh will exclusively be present today at the Sang Bleu Contemporary Art and Practice Space today from 4-8pm. Anyone will be able to drop in for free to have their portrait created by Kesh so please join us at 29b Dalston Lane, London, E8 3DF.

 


Sarka Encasement

Sarka Encasement is a Flickr account made by a woman who has a fetish for wearing tights.  She covers her entire body and face  in multiple layers of nylon in varying colours and then poses in them at home. Sometimes she wears a wig, high heels and a dress over the top her new nylon skin too. When I first found  Sarka Encasement I emailed her with a desperate need to interview her. Like most internet fetishists who share their ultra private images online through Flickr her idenitiy is completely anonymous. I wasn’t necessarily interested in finding anything personal out about her, but it was more about a need to understand how and why she’s made these fascinatingly original photos of herself trapped under layers and layers of women tights.

Sarka replied almost instantly and explained how her english speaking is almost non existent, but she’d be happy for me to write about her, she also suggested I like her on Facebook and watch her videos on Youtube. This is when I found out that Sarka has a huge following and religiously updates her social media outlets daily.

A fetish for tights isn’t necessarily that original, it of course falls under the category of underwear, there is something enticing about seeing a woman in nothing but them because they indicate to the notion of undressing. Tights are never worn as a singular garment but something to accessories with. There is also the aspect of tights fitting to every curve of the body, exaggerating the shape of the female form, they refer to nakedness without sharing any actual flesh. Then there is also the tactile nature of tights, the friction that they cause with skin and how thin the [...]