Kim Wood, At Home with Venus, 2001 (After Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’)
At Home with Venus
In 2001 as a student I was lucky enough to win a National Fuji Student award with my photograph (pictured above) ‘At Home with Venus’. (Remarkably photographed in with a basic 1 megapixel camera)
The competition had given students theme of ‘Culture Shock’ and my approach was to recreate classically themed paintings employing both classical and modern references. At the time I was unaware that I was committing blatant ekphrasis. This particular painting has been ekphrastisised by other painters too like Manet (Olympia)
Here are my notes from the time:
After looking at both commercial and fine art photography I found myself drawn to those works that employed a theatrical and at times surreal sense of light and colour. Theatre often portrays characters in a larger than life way; in other words the personality traits of its subjects are usually exaggerated in order to make the most impact on an audience. The extreme examples of this occur in pantomimes, folk tales and mystery plays where characters take on archetypal energies. I began to explore the idea of taking contemporary personalities and settings and imbuing them with a theatrical/archetypal personality.
The Venus of Urbino by Titian portrays distinct female archetypes. The reclining nude is the embodiment of the goddess of love – Venus. In striking contrast to the intimate and erotic Venus is the everyday domestic scene in the background featuring a mother and child. This painting reveals woman as both mistress and lover and wife and daughter, archetypes no less meaningful to women today as then. I envisioned recreating this classical pose with contemporary models in a modern domestic living room.
I have represented the theme of culture shock as detailed in the Fuji brief by positioning contemporary models in a modern setting with a classical pose.
Lucy (a friend who also happens to be a model) plays Venus reclining seductively on rich and sensual materials in her dining room while her sister Emma (her real sister) who is very pregnant looks after the children in the living room. The setting is actually Lucy’s house and the lounge/dining room divide is perfect for the pose. The added bonus of Emma being pregnant heightens the wife/mother versus mistress/lover division. I chose the image that included Lucy’s daughter Somer looking at her mother because to me it conveyed the idea that the female archetypes were often associated with the different ages of women. Girl to lover to wife to mother then to beget daughter, so Somer was looking into her future yet it was obviously still a bit beyond her, judging by her expression.
Note: The other child in the image is my son Jesse Wood.