@ClareAngela and I popped along to the Lazarides Gallery in Rathbone Place to see the final few days of the Jonathan Yeo exhibition. The show is about our relationship with cosmetic surgery. There are exquisite diptychs of nudes pre and post op, patients undergoing facial surgery, and some nudes pre-surgery complete with surgical graffiti.
These neo-classical nudes are beautifully rendered : the skin is translucent and warm, the veins pump beneath the surface, you can practically hear these women breathe... Clare and I found ourselves debating whether these women needed work, the ethics of plastic surgery, how beautiful the women already were etc...
Jonathan is an excellent portrait painter, but controversy courts him following his collages of George Bush Jr, and notably Sarah Palin, using cuttings from pornographic magazines. Here Jonathan is clear that he has no view on plastic surgery, just that it is here to stay, and that we should examine our relationship with the aesthetics of beauty and surgery. Inevitably we bring our own opinions to the show, especially as women. The collection of facial surgery paintings are particularly interesting too - the women here are already glamourous, beautiful, ethereal, but shown with anaesthetic tubes protruding from their perfect lips, lying lifeless on the surgeon's table. One wonders when 'she' will ever be satisfied with her appearance. One painting shows a woman following a facial procedure bound with bandages - it renders her helpless and a little forlorn, but decidedly vulnerable.
Given the current controversy surrounding cosmetic surgery, particularly breast implants, the show is very timely. Radio 4 even hosted a phone-in this week to discuss the relative benefits and merits of surgery, and the pitfalls. For so many, the inclination is to alter oneself under the knife, rather than to seek guidance on why we are dissatisfied. One surgeon on Radio 4 felt that it might be beneficial to have psychiatric assistance in the initial meeting, to ensure that patients truly understood their motives and desires.
Regardless of the artistic intention, I found it particularly interesting to note which pictures had sold. Of the breast pictures, it was the diptychs of breasts before and after who's bright sale stickers were firmly attached to the wall. These are particularly beautiful, I'd love a pair myself (no pun intended), but they're also the paintings which show no surgical graffitti, and could be hung without reference to the exhibition as a whole... As Clare pointed out, "Tits Sell Shocker".
The show only runs until the end of the week, but I would encourage you to see it - they're rather beautiful (and make sure you go upstairs too!).
11 Rathbone Place,
London W1T 1HR