the female disillusion
Immediately I was struck by a profound vibrancy.
It wasn’t difficult to define that first impression as I entered the Nanshe Gallery for The Female Disillusion, a solo exhibition by local artist Christina Frogley. Covering two of the three walls as you entered the small, boutique gallery on Beaumont Street, Hamilton, hung the bright, pastel coloured canvases. Gorgeous nudes so elegantly adorned the space, their skin so seemingly flawless and tonal against bright, textured backdrops. But beyond the vibrant colours there was something thought provoking about Christina’s nudes.
One of the most striking works, Fire, invokes the imagery of a burning sunrise slowly creeping across the canvas, gently intruding into the calming, pale blue covers that hide an exquisite beauty from our prying eyes. There is a juxtaposition between the blurring of the female’s arm and head, and the clarity and definition of her body as you move ever further down toward her toes. The pale blue covers she is wrapped in have a sense of comfort and safety, and yet the running drips of paint that stain her body reminds you that there is something not quite real about her.
“The Female Disillusion challenges the way traditional nude figurative art expresses the ideals of female beauty,” Christina says.
“I wanted to show the females and at the same time obscure them. By censoring out certain body parts their identity is covered by abstraction.”
I found this to be particularly the case with She Lay Down. The female arches her back, breaking free from the same pale-blue sheets that covered the female in Fire. Only the obscuring of her face isn’t the gentle blurring of the morning sun, but a dark scratching that is intentional and fierce. The brush strokes are obvious across her breasts and torso but her legs and bottom take on an almost photographic aesthetic.
“This was some experimentation,” Christina continues, “mixing the realism and extraction; aggressively applying the paint to cover the perfection and unrealistic beauty of the perfectly photographed women.”
You can see this aggression profoundly in Reclining Nude 2, where Christina uses only oil paints rather than the mix of oil and acrylic that is used across most of the other works in this exhibition. The oil gives this canvas a more grainy texture that is particularly pronounced by the sharp, straight line brush strokes that colourfully obscure the female’s face. It deliberate and savage, but the colours are bright and it helps balance your eye as you view the work.
Christina’s approach is softened in Swallowed in the Sea, where her input is almost disguised behind the gentle flow of the colours across the female. It’s dreamlike watching her sinking into the canvas, a peaceful tranquility washing her away.
Reflecting on that first impression the vibrant colours still grab my attention, but I now see through them into a vague melancholy that these pristine female figures exist only on the faces of the canvas and their beauty isn’t real. And as I look ever closer at the canvas the paint begins to run again and it gently drips to the floor.