I know for a fact that a lot of artlovers out there are mostly interested in art featuring women (as the Guerilla Girls pointed out: 83% of all nudes in the Met feature women, whereas only 3% of all artists featured in the Met actually are women). Looking at the tags and search queries people use to get to my blog clearly points that out. The popularity of the picture with my post about the work of Eric Bailey, which is still one of the most popular posts I’ve written is also a clear indication in that direction.
BLK/MRKT gallery in Los Angeles always seems to showcase artists that I, and this is truly a matter of personal opinion, think are more or less brilliant and quite inspiring (at the same time, I must admit I have never actually physically been there yet… they say their coffee is great). A recent virtual wander about on their website revealed to me the magnificent works of Canadian artist Ben Tour.
We are very familiar with the use of the female figure in art. Porn did not only help the VHS system be victorious, but the (ab)use of the nude female body has made a good living for many painters, sculptors and other artists. They figured out a long time ago that sex sells. But the female nude is no longer synonymous with ‘sex’. Works by South African artist Marlene Dumas are often so confrontational and graphic that her works are uncomfortable to even look at. Her works make clear, even more than a photograph could, how women can be exploited and degraded in this oversexed world. The audience feels even more embarrassed by watching her works than they would be when they had rented a piece of ‘adult entertainment’. Another artists that has been on top of the artistic food chain for quite a while is Lucian Freud. Freud also paints nudes. And, of course, also female nudes. Just as with Dumas’ works, his nudes aren’t meant to sexually arouse and they don’t.
Ben Tour’s work is very different from both artists mentioned. His works breathe that ‘streetart’ atmosphere, and the way he incorporates letters and numbers give his works the feeling of even deeper lying mythical meaning. The serie that touched me most was his blue wash series. Tour has painted several women with crayon and ink that are both beautiful and tragic. It’s uneasy to look at them. And you just know that pretty girls aren’t supposed to look like that. that;s not the image Hollywood has taught us. Pretty girls have fun. But Ben Tour will have none of that. you just hope that the artists comforted them after he took their misery and poured it out on paper.
Ben Tour’s repertoire goes a lot further than these ‘tragic sirenes’. All his works seem to have a sort of lightness in colors, you feel you can see right through them. For me this also meant that I actually looked into his works. The way he chooses his subjects and compositions make that his works look both very contemporary (like I said: streetart feel) as well as timeless. You can’t date his works. But then , that only helps to see his works as instant classics.
A quite nice read, the Ben Tour interview on fecalface.com.
And a movieclip by WalrusTV featuring some of Ben Tour’s works, can be found here.