This one of the finalists in the Archibald Prize, Sophia Hewson's Delivered.
This self-portrait was based on a performance that we did in Melbourne. It was intentionally public, fast and cheaply documented, to reference the methods of pornography,’ says Sophia Hewson.
‘I was using my body in this work to try to open up a dialogue on female self-objectification (when a woman intentionally sexually objectifies herself). Sometimes I think self-objectification can be constructive. It can be used to claim back ownership of the body or to assert: “I can exhibit my sexuality without it amounting to my sexual availability”.
‘Other times I think it can reflect the way the patriarchal value system has been internalised. But I don’t feel you can expect a woman, who has unconsciously internalised “male” values, to see herself as a space where something has been lost. A new identity needs to be forged.
‘I’m interested in this because I’m struggling with it myself. I have difficulty navigating the contradictions and differentiating between internal and external influences, but I see self-portraiture as a potent site for negotiating identity.’
I selected the painting because it was one of a number of entries where the artist described her or his work in explicitly ideological terms. In this context, the main themes were feminism, followed about equally by Aboriginal dispossession and the environment. In some cases such as Sophie's the expression was personal, in others more generalised.
This is Louis Pratt's King Coal. The description reads:
This work is anthropomorphised coal. The title King Coal is from a novel by Upton Sinclair that describes the abysmal working conditions in the coal mining industry in the western United States during the early 20th century.
Coal is an important issue for Australia. It has helped us enjoy the quality of life we have today and will continue to do so for some time. But a future with coal will lead to environmental disaster. The overwhelming majority of scientists agree we are at a tipping point for the use of fossil fuels. To continue will irreparably poison our atmosphere.
My work depicts an arrogant character unwilling to change and unaware of his impending doom.
I have no problems with any of this, but it also created a funny reaction in my mind. When I read the descriptions, I found myself asking the question did the work achieve the artist's objective? This is a very different question from do I like it or is it a good piece of art? In Sophie's case I felt no, in Louis' case probably yes. In all, I would have been better off forming my views of the piece and then and only then reading the artist's description.
This leads me to today's forum topic.How do you judge art? What is or should be the relationship between art, ideology and politics? As always, feel free to go in whatever direction you like!