Monday, 19 October 2009

The Agony and the Ecstacy

Bitch! Paris, Ellen Von Unwerth 2007

I have a couple of things to share this week; Firstly Ellen Von Unwerth, who I featured in a post a few weeks back is now exhibiting in London with a show called 'Fraulein'. The model turned photographer has been creating provocative sexually charged images for 15 years and this show highlights some of her favourite pieces from over that time. I wish I could see the work while it's up!

Ellen Von Unwerth's 'Fraulein'

Michael Hoppen Gallery London
Until 28th November 2009

Secondly and somewhat bizzarely I noticed a strange mix of religious iconography and sensuality this morning; My studio is situated opposite Salford Cathedral where the relics of St Therese of Lisieux were recently displayed as part of their journey to religious sites around the world.

I've always meant to pop into the cathedral as it is very impressive from the outside and I like visiting old churches etc as I like the architecture and atmosphere. The Cathedral still has lots of images of St Therese including banners, one of which had this image and tagline printed on it:

I do not regret having surrendered myself to Love

It struck me that this was an interesting choice of words to put with a picture that showed a woman who looks like she could be;
A. in religious rapture
B. in sensual rapture

C. asleep

D. dead.

There are so many layers of meaning between the image and the text. It really made me think about how interpretations of spirituality and sensuality have been mixed together over time, almost as if they could be one and the same? (incidentally, she is dead in this photo! but I didn't know that until I looked it up)
Here are some other examples of classic sensual religious iconography:

The ecstasy of St Teresa by Bernini 1647 -52

'Ecstase', Pierre and Gilles 2002

For an interesting article about Pierre and Gilles click HERE.

Another way of exploring the link would be to see what happens when you place the words spoken by St Therese alongside other equally evocative images:

I do not regret having surrendered myself to Love

Which kind of brings me back to the image by Ellen Von Unwerth which you can see at the top of the post...

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