☰ Jonathan Thomson Art

Abstract bodies

Unlike the West, in Hong Kong and China there is no long tradition of representing the nude in art. This leads to a certain reticence in making, looking at and collecting nudes. How then can the many issues and contradictions regarding the nude be addressed if not actually depicting a naked body?

It occurred to me that women’s underwear is a powerful signifier of female bodies and women’s lives and that a series of super-realist sculptures in cotton, latex and acrylic was an effective way of addressing the invisibility of the nude and many of the issues regarding sexuality, representations of women, the male gaze, intimacy and eroticism without actually showing any nude figure.

Underwear heightens feminine sexuality and cultivates desire. Women’s panties are powerfully erotic fetish objects that resonate with all sexes. When these sculptures are presented as if casually discarded, lost, seduced or abandoned we are instantly enmeshed in their narrative potential. What is their back-story? How did they come to be there? The finest lingerie promises glamour at the nexus of gender, perfection, imagination, celebrity, sensuality and unattainability. But they may also be framed as subversive and transgressive and fetishised as naughty things representative of illicit sex.

There is sensuality and sexuality everywhere all around, if only you care to look.

A distinctive feature of Hong Kong is it’s many “stonewall trees”. These are Banyan trees and other types of strangler fig that have taken hold in the old stone retaining walls that were built during colonial times using traditional Chinese masonry techniques. The roots of these trees convey an exuberant eroticism as they overlap and entwine themselves around each other. Many of these suggest a human couple locked in a passionate embrace. This is sensuality and sexuality hidden in plain sight. I have represented these organic configurations in a group of sculptures called Biomorphic Linear Forms.

Taoist teaching says that emptiness is potential. Thus a drape that appears to take the form of a human figure but without any figure inside may be seen to represent the infinite potential of anybody and everybody. These sculptures are made in bent and folded sheet lead.

Other abstracted body works are based on the fleeting shadows that are cast by the body of a figure onto itself. They focus attention on the importance of absence. Just as sound must have silences, so too light needs shadows. Shadows give a body substance. These works give the negative space of absence a palpable presence. They use darkness to illuminate truths about sensuality, human existence and beauty.

Neon and Electroluminescent Wire can also be used to make illuminated 2D sculptures that rely on a clean elegant line to describe the sensuous curves and forms of the human body.