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P A M E L A S T R E T T O N
Award-winning new-media artist, PAMELA STRETTON, is one of the most exciting and innovative talents of the new generation of contemporary South African artists, and we are proud to present her as our first “Artist of the Month”.Artist's Statement:
My artwork focuses on the female body, and is to a large extent autobiographical. Issues such as beauty ideals and the body's relationship with popular culture, fashion, health and food are central to my themes. A semiotic approach is applied to my portrayal of the body with the idea of the body being able to produce meaning and relay messages in its own right. In my work, a system of signs is dealt with in terms of the encoded aspect. In a similar way that a real live body emits signs in the form of communicative acts, which are then interpreted by perceivers, the body in the two dimensional form of images, becomes encoded with information in the form of text, icons and numbers, which is intended to be perceived in the same way; as messages to be decoded in the ornate system of signs involved with the female body and issues such as anorexia. The encoding is literally 'written on the body', and actually makes up the surface tonality of the body image, likening the body to a text that should be read.
The pixel plays an important role in the work, pointing to a number of elements that should be noted. The first of which is the idea of scale. Enlarging a specific area for the purpose of immense scrutiny is crucial to the work and since the images are large and pixilated, the viewer is forced to stand at a distance in order to make them visually resolve. While the image resolves at a distance, the information contained within each individual pixel cannot be seen, and requires the viewer to come forward to within a few centimeters of the work. Tension is created here through this constant pull between intimacy and distance. Repetition in the work also points to the use of the pixel. The colours of the pixels making up a digital image are often repeated, or vary slightly from one to the next, and in keeping with this notion, the information contained within the pixels in these works operates similarly. It becomes apparent that the contents of these pixels are variations of the same thing, if not repeated exactly. This repetition points to the notion of excess. Control is also an important element to the work (in relation to the body) and is enhanced by the presence of the pixel. Looking closely at a section of a pixilated image brings to mind the idea of a grid. Since the work involves a very neat, ordered and controlled method of arrangement, the use of grids is necessary throughout the process. The main purpose of these grids is to contain something or to keep something in place. These grids, in the context of the work and made evident through their pixilated nature, may be seen as a metaphor for control and conformity. Not only is the pixel a perfect square, an essentially geometric form, making up a curved, organic body, but also the format of the works themselves is a square inside which the body is contained. Almost all negative space is eliminated to highlight this notion of containment. This idea of the tightly controlled containment of the square and the grid is an important element of the work in terms of the obsessive behaviour women often exert on their bodies in the name of beauty. Fragmentation is looked at in the work in terms of the realist fragment. The body is seen up-close and in part, referring to it in relation to specific parts. The fragment is made all the more prevalent in the work through the presence of the pixel. The works themselves depict fragments, making up a body of work, but the pixels too, can be seen as fragments of a whole, since a pixel is the element of which a digital image is made up. An important concept to note here is that it is not only the relationship between one pixel and another that serves to resolve the image, but also the relationship between each work and the others, in reading the body of work as a whole.
Notions of flesh and references to food are also made continuously to highlight the obsessive relationship between the female body and eating disorders. The reference to fat products and meat links strongly to the personal aspect of the work in terms of the anorexic experience. Fat, for obvious reasons, and meat, in terms of its relation to flesh. The work makes reference to these substances by means of recognisable iconography found on their packaging. Packaging is focussed on, not only for its relation with consumerism and its role in the sale of products, but for the information it displays.The excessive use of such iconography in this project is inspired by an obsession with food and eating. The foam adhered to each pixel is also a reference to the notion of flesh, and the softness of women's bodies.
© 2012 All rights reserved. Origination by Di Conradie