© Deborah Paauwe, Broken Melody, from the series The Crying Room, 2006
© Deborah Paauwe, Crimson Autograph, from the series Double Dutch, 2002
“Deborah Paauwe’s imagery circulates between art photography and erotica as the artist seduces and assaults the gaze. Paauwe engages with a labyrinthine gaze that Lacan charts as a map full of traps and misrecognitions
In this series of photographs the artist accentuates the screen aspects of the Lacanian gaze, framing this quite literally for the viewer by using a veil to shroud and figures. The body is seen through a screen of translucent material, enticing the voyeuristic desires of the spectator. The bodies are soaked in and through the veil, making indents and traces in the material, as the subject becomes index.
The veil produces a sensuous affect at the same time as it shrouds the image giving it an auratic, ghostly shield. The veiling of the female form has sensual, religious and ideological aspects: it is simultaneously erotic and sinister
The erotic aspects of the photographs position them within a discourse about the objectification of the female form for the male gaze. The images are both dangerous and playful. They capture a coming of age, a transition from childhood to adult sexuality, and they engage with and unsettle the gaze through association with larger issues. Paauwe plays with the gaze and the construction of the female subject by getting her models to perform scenes. The performative aspects of the photographs need to be considered – it is this artifice that separates the images from ‘real’ life. There is no document being recorded. These are not real scenes captured by the camera as a mute witness. These pictures are made as art. Some consciously reference the history of photography. Porcelain, for example, could be read as a feminisation of Edward Weston’s famous photograph of his son, Neil, titled Nude Torso (1922), that was appropriated by Sherrie Levine in the 1980s to make a statement about great masters and authorship. However, Paauwe’s rendition goes beyond parody. It is a homage to the flesh but whereas Weston and other modernist photographers stressed the form of the image, Paauwe seems to make the flesh ephemeral. The touch of the fingertips on the chest is delicate but haunting. The tips of the fingers appear bruised or dirty and they set up an unnerving contrast to the clean white flesh and the lace bodice.” (…)
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