Saturday, 19 January 2013


Islay Standing, ©Nadav Kander, courtesy Flowers Gallery, London

BODIES - 6 Women, 1Man

Flowers Gallery London
                  until February 8th                             
'Wherever I may be, my pictures seek to expose the shadow and the vulnerability that exists in all of us, and it is this vulnerability that I find so beautiful'.
Coated in white marble dust and set against the stark background of the photographer's studio, the subjects of this set of dramatic chromogenic prints tease us with references to Classical and Renaissance art. Some also resonate with what we know of religious iconography and tomb sculpture. But that is not the focus of this exhibition.
In Islay Standing she turns her face away from the viewer, with her hair tumbling and twisting like that of Botticelli's Venus. She stands revealed, yet concealed, with outspread fingers shielding her eyes from some unseen danger - or from the viewer? Below, in Audrey with Toes and Wrist Bent we see a woman reclining with toes and fingers curled and compressed in an uncomfortable and unsustainable stance.The use of the sitters' names remind us that these are real people, individuals in the here and now, and not mythological figures.

Drawing on the conventions of earlier art works, Kander is  inviting us to engage in a visual dialogue between the past and the present, between notions of 'perfection' and the  beauty of a living, breathing human being. He exposes the shadow and vulnerability that exists in everyone, unique and idiosyncratic as we are.  The result is tender, wise and compassionate. For once we escape the scarifying pressure of artificial airbrushed perfection and that of sickly sentimentality.He describes his work as 'an enquiry into what it feels like to be human' and invites us to meditate on the beauty which lies in our all-too-human vulnerability.

Zoe Pilger's review The Naked Truth in the Independent on 14.1.13, referenced below, alludes to other work by Kander, including his prize-winning Yangtze, The Long River.

Audrey with Toes and Wrist Bent, ©Nadav Kander, courtesy Flowers Gallery, London

Post Script: Some years ago at the V&A Mark Quinn's life size marble sculptures of people with disability also challenged and displaced the classical ideal of 'beauty' and the category of the heroic and perfect nude. His work was placed amid the V&A's historic collections,including two works by Antonio Canova. In 2006  his statue of Alison Lapper, naked, disabled and eight months pregnant, was mounted on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. She appeared again in glorious splendour at the Paralympic Games last summer.
BODIES 6 Women, 1 Man by Nadav Kander, published by Hatje Cantz

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