2018 #21

Light of Grace

by Celine Bodin

"The soft lighting and clouded focus of Celine’s images preserve the privacy of her subjects and enable viewers to project their own ideas of femininity, entirely liberated from western beauty standards."

LIGHT OF GRACE

History of art has altered our perception of female identity and continues to influence contemporary portraiture. The idea of the female nude itself is charged with tradition and spiritual connotations. Light of Grace explores a distorted reality of ideals and conflicting notions of the sacred and the erotic, in a study that found inspiration from the first depiction of the nude. In the Bible, Adam and Eve were at first described as “nude”, yet dressed with the love of God – “The Light of Grace”. When Eve submits to temptation however, they become “naked”. The project title references this search for a definition of what constitutes the nude and its dual nature. The transition between the veiled and unveiled bodies therefore acts as a barometer within the project.

IDEALS OF BEAUTY

The decision to focus on younger women is drawn from Old Masters’ paintings that I reference. The beauty of youth has fascinated for centuries and paintings by Cranach, Ingres or Botticelli present models that were re-imagined to comply with the ideals of beauty of their time, which is just as relevant within photography today. The project therefore aims to address the motives of representation and its formatting.

SOFT FOCUS

Simulating a fading memory, the soft focus in my images is created directly through the lens, offering my subjects a veil of intimacy and a space for expression. This process presents only the evocation of the character until a particular ‘type’ transpires: The bodies on display are either seducing and inviting or coldly conservative. Even if the referenced painter is not obvious to everyone, each viewer projects a different idea of the feminine cult onto the image.
The hazy photographs also remind us of the many possible definitions of beauty; indeed, as abstract art has stated, beauty doesn’t reside in the object itself but in the sensory experience that the object elicits, therefore challenging our appreciation of the female form. In that sense, the project also aims to connect very different art movements: Renaissance art, Classicism, Pre-Raphaelites, and Abstraction.

VIRTUAL WORLDS

The proliferation of images has forced our eye to recognise, which in turn sustains consumption. It is rare for us to contemplate nowadays. Instead, we readily absorb the ideas we are fed. At first the blur in Light of Grace disturbs our eye, like an image that hasn’t fully loaded; but contemplation naturally occurs and we start seeing other images within it, triggering a chain reaction of ideas.

Read more (2 min read)

Hammershoi II

Hammershoi II

Henner I

Henner I

Ingres VI

Ingres VI

John I

John I

Rossetti I

Rossetti I

Celine Bodin

London, GB

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Celine Bodin

London, GB

Characterised by an uneasy relationship with established notions of gender and identity, Céline Bodin’s (b. 1990, France) soft focused photographs explore the canonised female body in Western culture. Her subjects re-enact the convention of ‘the nude’ established by Old Masters and 19th century painters, perpetuating a discourse between these images and the pressures of contemporary beauty standards. Historical research has led her to instances of reclamation; a series of intricate women’s hairstyles - from a 16th century Elizabethan wig to a shaved punk scalp - capture a narrative of cultural customs and self-expression. Reflecting on a virtual world which bombards us with imagery of presupposed ideals, Bodin seeks out discrepancy and authenticity by revealing the formatting of our eye’s associative aptitude and the visual fantasises projected onto anonymous bodies.

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