Using my body as a tool to paint and perform allows me to make body prints. This is a direct reference to Yves Klein’s “Anthropométrie de l’époque bleue” performance (1960). In front of an audience, Klein directed naked young women to cover their bodies in his signature blue paint and then print their bodies onto a white surface. Klein selected women who would have been considered the feminine ideal, ultimately creating, in my opinion, passive female bodies, ripe for objectification and sexualization by the male gaze.

I am a black female, operating in a society where I am a minority and where European standards for beauty are the norm. In this society, the black female body has a heavy load of history to carry in terms of sexual stereotypes and resulting objectification or de-sexualization- meaning that depending on ones physical characteristics, it is possible to find oneself placed into a either a box which sexually objectifies you based on a particular stereotype or into a box which completely de-sexualises you, with not much scope for just being who you are. These are the issues I wish to confront.

With the body prints made in studio, the conversation is extended further by bringing in elements of my identity and culture. Old family photographs from colonial British Gold coast (now Ghana) are then juxtaposed with photographs of British people from the same time period. These are placed on top of and around the imprints left by my own body in the present. Utilising image transfer techniques, sometimes degraded, yet recognisable versions of these images are presented on the surface. Throughout this process I think about family history, migration, myself as a diaspora child and colonialism. The resulting works at times resemble collages transposed on top of or underneath body prints. Text is woven through and around the images and paint, in opposition, other works include body prints with minimal images and text.

I first began to explore body prints using red oil paint to create a strong link to blood, tissue and violence against the black body. I am now experimenting with new materials and techniques as a way of extending the parameters of my current practice. 

When performing, to date, I have used French ultramarine blue oil paint as a direct conversation with Yves Klein’s famous performance. I intentionally apply the paint before presenting myself in front of the audience. I perform the process of making the body prints- after which I sit, listen and absorb what the audience is feeling and thinking, based on sounds, and the mood in the room. I then engage in a process of automatic writing where I use the energy and insight to write everything I am thinking and feeling in that moment on to the surface, making the performance about the audience, as much as it is about Klein, feminism and history.

Image from performance at UNFOLD Space 2017. Courtesy Jennifer Moyes.