Lumpy and bumpy, loud and proud, Dominic Myatt and Rachel Hodgson’s representations of nudity are a reality we can see in mirrors, in our beds and on nudist beaches every day. Their illustrations aren’t even much of a celebration, but a recognition of the great British beach body that anybody who’s been to Blackpool Pleasure Beach has already experienced second – or first – hand. Instead of following suit with the world’s fixation on the “perfect body”, Ridley Road Nudist Beach shows the beauty in all bodies – small dicks, saggy tits and everything in between.
By focusing on British beach holidays, Myatt and Hodgson are giving us camp and comedy in a manner that challenges the inherently sexual view with which society sees nudity, especially in terms of the female form. Below we chat to the pair about the importance of being crude, the subversion of nudity and the creepy undertones of the British seaside.
Both of you often deal with nudity in your illustrative work, but how did you decide upon nudist beach as the theme for the exhibition?
Dominic Myatt: We wanted to work thematically for our first show together and the idea of a nudist beach seemed like a great place to pull together all the subject matter we both explore within our own work. A nudist beach is also quite an interesting place culturally as it’s seen as a cringey family friendly place, but a quick image search will also throw up a lot of amateur pornography. Visualising that weird place in the middle of all that really fits into what we both do.
Rachel Hodgson: I liked the idea of doing an exhibition of crude nudes, but then the theme of the nudist beach brings an added element of fun – especially when we started talking about doing the exhibition because the weather was still cold and shite. I feel like there is a tacky-ness that comes to mind when you think of a nudist beach, maybe cos it’s seen as a bit seedy or something. No one really imagines nudist beaches to be beautiful and idyllic, everyone imagines it to be a bit creepy.
Why Ridley Road, Dalston?
Dominic Myatt: Initially it was a bit accidental, as it happens to be the road where the gallery is located.
Rachel Hodgson: But when we started talking about it, I feel like it really works with the setting of Ridley road and the market. With the hanging dead chickens and pigs feet mixed together with the idea of naked bodies. It’s all a bit gross.
How do you individually approach nudity as a theme running through your work?
Rachel Hodgson: My drawings are almost always of women with saggy breasts on show. This is perhaps because people don’t like to accept that saggy breasts exist but they are everywhere and there is nothing wrong with them.
“People don’t like to accept that saggy breasts exist but they are everywhere and there is nothing wrong with them”– Rachel Hodgson
Dominic Myatt: I rarely draw clothed figures in my work, and usually if a figure is clothed it has probably started off as a nude. I think actively being nude in public is still something that's quite subversive and liberating but I think it's quite interesting how quickly that can change depending on who is looking.
What do you think about our attitude towards nudity as a society?
Dominic Myatt: With a lot of hypocrisy, which has a lot to do with sexism that is still inate in society. It needs to change, the world should be more like Ridley Road nudist beach!
Rachel Hodgson: Unless it’s a super toned, fit, tanned, slim, shiny hairless body then no one wants to see it and it’s considered gross and shocking.
Why is it important for both of you to feature all shapes, sizes and persuasions?
Rachel Hodgson: I’m just bored of society telling us that unless your body is slim, fit, shiny and beautiful then your ugly and not worth looking at. I want all the lumpy hairy people to feel beautiful to and have their moment in the sun.
Dominic Myatt: We have all the polished and airbrushed almost nude bodies thrust in our faces everyday through advertising and the media, so we wanted to show something different as an antidote to that – an exaggerated reality in the opposite direction. A celebration of lump hairy people!
Your individual work evokes ideas of garishness, femininity and mortality. How does the Ridley Road nudist beach add to this conversation?
Dominic Myatt: I think the idea of a british seaside destination is quite a garish destination in our minds in the first place. In the various scenes at the nudist beach I depict people drowning, being partially eaten by sharks, but also enjoying themselves whilst having intercourse and eating a bag of chips.
Rachel Hodgson: I came across pictures from the 70s of a nudist beach beauty pageant, the ladies in the images were of course wearing nothing but cowboy hats and had numbers round their necks. I started searching more and found lots of pictures from different decades of these nudist beauty pageants. It’s weird and scary but also totally unsurprising to see women being judged by their bodies. I was interested though in the cheesy smiles of the women in the images, and wanted my drawings to be focused on the weird tackiness rather than focusing on the scary sexist horror of it.
Ridley Road Nudist beach is a one night exhibition taking place 17th, May 2016. More info here
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