'Things you can tell'

by kate arthur

These works are an extension of an ongoing series of "body portraits", which look at the body as a site of identity. My focus is the bodies of people who identify as queer - an identity which encompasses not only aspects of gender, sex and sexual orientation but also, and more importantly, a politics which resists or challenges normative narratives around gender and sexuality. Ultimately, this work is a celebration of a range of bodies belonging to a range of queer-identifying people. The title is taken from a film by Rodrigo García called 'Things you can tell just by looking at her'. I am drawn to the idea that there are things you can tell about another person just by looking at them and, conversely, that there are things you can't tell. Normative narratives suggest that there are clear distinctions between male and female - and between men and women - to the extent that they are often understood as opposites. This binarising of sex and its link to gender is a longstanding and ingrained process that begins at birth, starting with the most obvious (and absurd) ascriptions of colour: "blue is for boys" and "pink is for girls". The exhibition includes 10 watercolour body portraits and a host of works on paper that employ various printmaking techniques. Printmaking is a new medium for me and, as such, has forced me out of my comfort zone of painting in the most appropriate way. Letting go of control and being open to results of chance in the studio has allowed me to explore the same subject matter in an experimental and playful way. It has also allowed me to rework similar images over and over, offering opportunities for layering and merging combinations. The work embraces fluidity, where the contours and borders of bodies spill out over and across and between each other. These processes open up the possibility for multiple bodies to exist together, revealing how bodies are different and how they are the same, and blurring the lines of where one body ends and another begins. This work proposes a suspension of dichotomous understandings, of what we think we know about bodies and to whom they belong, and invites an act of looking that acknowledges the "masculine" in the "feminine", and vice versa. For me, these bodies - all bodies - have the potential to be neither and/or both. Thinking about bodies then becomes less about ascriptions and assumptions and more about a sensitivity to the nuances of embodiment. - Kate Arthur