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UAL Research Online

Reengaging with the Art-Historical Female-Nude Subject through Feminist Deconstruction in Contemporary Painting

Vickers, Anna (2022) Reengaging with the Art-Historical Female-Nude Subject through Feminist Deconstruction in Contemporary Painting. PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Vickers, Anna

How can painting be used to reengage with the art-historical female-nude subject through its feminist deconstruction – and what does this mean in relation to contemporary art?

There is still a tendency among scholars to privilege formal analysis of an artwork at the expense of discussing (gendered) identity or, conversely, to focus exclusively on identity politics so that it overwhelms any discussion of form. This practice-based research thesis holds the two approaches in tension by examining the act of painting – itself a mode of generative research – while also investigating feminist art practice and criticism on painting and the body.

Some practitioners working in contemporary figurative painting reengage with the art historical subject of the female nude. A number of them are given attention for the way they subvert and overthrow conventional narratives and histories. Reviewing these closely reveals a consistent avoidance among painting practitioners of a certain type of image or pose too firmly situated within historical convention. My practice-based research which is situated in the field of feminism and contemporary painting therefore seeks to discuss the possible reclamation of a space for representing what could be described as an ‘indeterminate’ and ‘beautiful’ female nude in reaction to strands of feminist art practice and criticism that have problematised the representation of a formalised ideal body. My thesis considers whether this subversion reaches the heart of the issue given our knowledge of the persistence of such historical paradigms.

From a practitioner’s point of view, specifically with regard to my own practice, this thesis operates as a ‘post-rationalisation’ of creative practice, for which feminist scholarship led by figures such as Griselda Pollock and Hilary Robinson has been pivotal. This research contributes to the thinking around how the implications of second-wave feminism have affected the terms of contemporary painting, adding to debates around the deployment of the female body within it. I address such issues from a feminist perspective, having selected a constellation of case studies of women’s contemporary painting practices, testing my own practice against an articulation of their feminist strategies.

Methodology involves the construction of a critical concept, for which I have coined the term the ‘discarded body’, which emerges from my practice and is concerned with issues of painting, gesture and the body. My critical framework builds on the notion of ‘indeterminacy’, which is employed by David Joselit to refer to the slippage of painting signs in Jutta Koether’s practice, a notion I juxtapose with Suhail Malik’s theorisation of indeterminacy in relation to contemporary art. By testing and evaluating the concept of the discarded body and its limitations, I unravel complex issues about identity politics and current perspectives on contemporary art. In so doing, I seek to pave the way for new ways of thinking about contemporary painting and about how modernism can incorporate more radical perspectives.

Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Camberwell College of Arts
Date: January 2022
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2023 09:36
Last Modified: 24 May 2023 09:18
Item ID: 19924
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/19924

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