Laure Prouvost is filling the city of Copenhagen with naked bodies. The Turner Prize-winning artist has created a series of comically dismembered boobs, butts and crotches that will run loose in the streets in the run up to the CHART art fair in early September.
“I wanted to play with the city, and hopefully uncover a hidden nakedness,” she tells me as we chat over the phone, while she strolls in the Belgian woods with her daughter. “I’m using the human body more and more in my work, especially as we are living in a time when prudishness appears to be growing.” The set of 12 oils, which have been turned into posters, billboards and banners throughout Copenhagen’s public spaces, are a reimagining of an earlier series of work called Look Behind the Curtain. In the original version, 20 paintings of various fleshy pink bottoms were presented in an unusually chaotic hanging pattern and hidden beneath a thick black curtain.
This natural progression was commissioned by the fair and sees various cheeky body parts coupled with text, giving them a new plural voice as if they are coming alive. “I wanted them to have their own consciousness, as if they have their own brains and desires with their own point of view, and they’re saying ‘stop hiding us!’” These statements include banal phrases such as ‘checking the weather’, as well as more suggestive alternatives, such as ‘we are coming out’, inscribed beneath a pair of perky breasts. Some are presented against a black backdrop, while others are on a clean, white alternative. In this guise, Prouvost’s paintings are not actively hidden beneath a material panel, but still seem to be jumping out in defiance of some other form of invisible censorship. They will seek out their own spaces (both secluded and actively revealed) throughout the cityscape.
Although one of the project’s objectives is to invoke laughter, or at the very least provoke passers-by to question their purpose, Prouvost is keen to point to an underlying feminist mentality. “These images definitely come from a female and feminist point of view. There are countless examples of the naked woman being used as a symbol for hidden desire in surreal and conceptual works. If a man made these works it would be very different.”
This underlying sensibility comes through in these paintings; there is no sense of voyeurism or gaze. Instead Prouvost has infused the images with a vibrancy and joy that makes them feel truly alive. There is a strange quotidian nature found in the poses and aesthetics of these anonymous bodies, they are neither eerie or outwardly alluring, but maintain a flirtatious absurdism that is strangely compelling. Prouvost has long been known as an artist who creates her own fictions and realities, inviting an audience to come in and experience a dreamlike world that offers nods to surrealism while maintaining a fresh, leftfield perspective on the world we live in. With this series she is inviting the entire city to engage with a carefree nudity, offering us the chance to listen to the inner monologues of our own bodies and enjoy them – whether they are real or imagined.
CHART Art Fair runs from September 1-3, 2017, at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen.