In Room 44 of the National Gallery, London, sitting quietly is Bathers at Asnières, 1884, I forgot this was in the collection and I bumped into it like meeting a celebrity in the aisles of Tesco (or perhaps Marks & Spencer). In our new age we can empathise with the irrepressible natures of Seurat’s anonymous subjects as they find space to express their humanity at odds with the encroaching industrial and technical revolutions. Bathers are a commonly re-visited theme by artists and since the early renaissance depictions of privilege, this dogma has been a useful foil to record the human experience juxtaposed to a changing world. Cezanne and Renoir obviously are key to the movement towards a re-interpretation of classism and these modernist interpretations de-construct the privileged aristocrats dipping their toes into their private lakes. More contemporary artists shared this socialistic utopia bringing everyone into the previously elitist experience. Photographically we are left only with realist interpretations, some romanticised, commercialised and sexualised like Bruce Webber’s beautiful perfect boys in Bear Pond on a Gold Day and Ryan McGinley’s carefree fashionable youth’s.
Other artists reflect a more overtly political perspective, Boris Mikhailov’s great series ‘Salt Lake 1986’ reflects the notion of humanity finding a way to express itself under extreme circumstances. The Bather motif is an opportunity for photographers to work with nakedness, particularly away from the commercial stereotype, we have an opportunity to explore the bodies of the ordinary human beings not narcissistically sculpted to glamorise the status quo (lovely and addictive as it is) but to celebrate the oppressed and hidden beauty of everyday humanity normally hidden from view, shamed by the unachievable perfectionism that sells us Mars Bars, now brightly lit and brought back into the foreground out of the shadows.
My objectivist approach democratizes everyone I hope, I am interested in the vulnerability and sense of humanity that I share with Rineke Dijkstra’s beach teenagers. Both works are infected by the power of Botticelli’s Venus but the Venus in my work is a boy.