John Armstrong

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Académie en rose (1991)

These painted roses on photographs of deteriorating clay-and-wire nude studies are a response to the manner in which ideals of beauty are perpetuated in fine art training. Over a number of weeks, I observed the clay sketches done in an art college life-modelling class dry out and crack. I was struck by their tragi-comic incompleteness. As sketches in clay, they represent one of many steps towards the mastery of the figure — in this case that of a woman — and are, as such, necessarily unfinished. In seventeenth-century French Beaux-Arts tradition, such studies after a nude model in two- or three-dimensions were called académies; they have been part of the stock-in-trade of much art school training ever since. As student works, these figurines point to the ingenuousness, both technical and conceptual, of their makers. As objects and representations of women, however, they are symptomatic of much that is problematic inside and outside of art education. My intention was to complete or bring to fruition these studies in a manner that would give them a dignity, purpose, or perhaps even health.

Oil on fibre base photograph on linen
Each panel: 70 x 80 cm (27.5 x 31.5 inches)