I consider myself an artist, rather than a photographer. Skin often features prominently in my artwork, in the form of portrait painting, in which the skin's textures, scars and wrinkles tell a life story. Over time, the skin becomes like an artist's canvas: marked, etched, stained and coloured by our life experiences.
As an artist, therefore, I have used two human skin canvases, myself (female) and my partner (male), to explore the paradox of the skin being fragile yet strong – physically and figuritively – and how this relates to the way we face the world through our skin. The skin may be seen both in terms of an outward advertisement of our inner selves (emotions, beauty, pain, etc), and also a shield that protects our inner selves from the gaze of onlookers. It reveals and conceals.
I have explored the skin's paradoxes via the parallel of another artistic medium, in which I specialise: paper-cutting. I cut intricate designs out of paper using a surgical scalpel blade. The results are extremely fragile, yet relatively strong. Treating the skin as an artist's canvas or theatrical backdrop, I photograph my paper-cut designs draped or laid loosely over the skin, sometimes with paints applied directly to the skin.
The complex imagery of my paper-cuts reinforces the paradoxical themes inherent in skin:
An elegant Willow Pattern vase suggests a delicate floral display, but contains instead an array of mechanical tools, chains and a dangerous karambit knife blade. The vase itself has been shot through and shattered by an arrow.
The double helix of a DNA molecule transforms into a pair of snakes coiled around a spiral staircase, suggesting the caduceus of Hermes, or alternatively the game of Snakes and Ladders: human nature can be drawn upwards by ladders or sucked downwards by snakes.
Our skin can also be like a mask, concealing sensitive inner emotions through an outwardly intimidating appearance. The paper-cut mask zips in half down the middle: one half contains delicate, fragile imagery (a butterfly, spider's web, leaves), while the other half contains strong, harsh and violent imagery (hooked claws and knife blade, stag beetle antlers, shark's teeth and thorns).
Gold paint applied to the skin alludes to the legend of King Midas. Vainly, we crave the perfection of youthful radiant skin. Surrounded by a field of gold, the fingers of a hand link with the fingers of a skeleton, symbolising how life and mortality go hand in hand.