Much of my inspiration for this semester came from the same artists I looked at for my 2nd year tights project including Louise Bourgeois and Hans Bellmer. However, I also wanted to look at some historical examples of the Grotesque to see where it all started. And where it all started, or at least one of the earliest examples, is the work of Hieronymus Bosch. His pieces depict sin and the moral failures of humanity through weird, wonderful and sometimes disgusting illustrations. As he was active in the 15th century, much of the imaginative and obscure imagery were very obscure for his time. Bosch uses dark humour to portray human or human-like creatures that are comical but also makes the viewer feel uneasy.
Louise Bourgeois takes the human body and hangs it like meat. I love the fabric she uses which does not look like skin but you can still feel a fleshy presence. I plan to use the idea of hanging the body in my own sculpture.
Hans Bellmer mutilates the body to the point that it is still recognisable as human but is also alien. I hope with my sculpture to represent the body as Bellmer does so it is obvious it is human but is obscure and abnormal.
I was attracted to Eva Hesse’s work due to the material she uses. I again am using tights for this project but plan to stuff them with hair. I like that she plays about with weight and her sculptures still have very human and even sexual connotations.
It was difficult, but I finally managed to find some artists who used hair in their work. I loved Robert Gober’s wax pieces of everyday objects that he has made repulsive by adding hair. He has now given the sculptures a human, living quality and this disgusts the viewer as people do not seem to like hair that is not attached to our bodies.
A second example of an artists who works with hair, as well as the Grotesque, is Jonathan Payne. He uses the idea of the uncanny to make sculptures that look familiar but also obscure. The sculptures are human and alien at the same time and are quite disturbing to look at because of this confusion.
All of the examples of the Grotesque I have looked at have one thing in common, they are representative of the human body. So long as we have bodies, we will experience body horror and this is why the Grotesque has been used in art from the 15th century and is still relevant today. The majority of things that ‘gross us out’ are tied to the fear of obtaining a virus or illness that would effect or change or own bodies. My aim is to create a sculpture that provokes repulsion using human hair, but I also want the viewer to question their disgust. We all have hair, it is no more alive when on our heads than it is when lying on the floor, so why are we so disgusted by it? Hair is actually pretty remarkable; its so strong that a whole head of hair can hold the weight of two elephants, and one strand can tell us about our family history due to the DNA it contains. I want the viewer to change their preconception of hair when they first see the sculpture to see that it is only human.