This latest project (INSERT TITLE) by French artist, Laurent La Gamba, builds upon his previous work with camouflage art and trompe l’oeil. The project is the result of a collaboration between La Gamba and his model(s) and explores the strength of global brands upon consumer consciousness and the relationship between marketing and eroticism.
The artworks are composed of brand logos painted upon the bare breasts of a female model. Many of the logo’s are instantly recognisable brands, yet the model remains faceless, anonymous. This juxtaposition is a striking feature of the work.
The use of the nude female form is not new in art with early artistic renderings of idealised or stylised representations of female mythological figures. Renaissance artists often depicted the naked form based on what they believed the female body looked like, derived from the clothing fashions of the time.
Nowadays, the ubiquitousness of nude or semi-nude images in contemporary occidental society leaves little to the imagination and has reduced the degree to which we are shocked by such images. Moreover, images are becoming increasingly extreme to make an impression upon a viewer whose visual senses are overwhelmed by advertising, social media, and readily available pornography.
So, a brand logo painted upon a female breast should not surprise. After all global brands have been using women, their bodies, their beauty, and sexuality for decades to sell their products. Yet despite their simplicity, these latest works by Laurent La Gamba succeed in disrupting and disturbing our perceptions.
Firstly, the titles of each series are deliberately provocative and, at times aggressive.
“M.I.L.F (Mother I’d like to fuck)” jars harshly with brands associated with children and nurturing. Whereas “Fantasy Fuck” depicts logos associated with admirable professions (nurse, nun, police officer) that feature regularly in the line-up of sexual role play figures.
These titles appear to give voice to the ‘male gaze’ and express a discordance between the interpretation of the viewer and the impression sought by the brand on display.
That the artist choses to paint upon the breast; rather than some other part of the body, is interesting. Of course, female breasts convey notions of sexuality and eroticism, but the baring of the breasts has, throughout modern history, also become a form of protest for many women. We notice that it is La Gamba’s model who is exposing her breasts to the camera, she is not a passive character in this narrative; nor is she an object to simply be stared at.
On the one hand the model can be seen as empowered, reclaiming her body from those who would exploit it, yet on the other, is she not complicit in her exploitation…? Does she have something to gain from the association with the brand? Afterall, it is she who exposes her breasts. If she had not done so, she would remain unremarkable….
“I do not, in general, consider myself to be a political artist” states La Gamba “I enjoy the beauty and eroticism of the female form and I have an interest in contemporary society’s preoccupation with consumerism. Therefore, for me, this project is an opportunity to combine those elements. Of course, as soon as you paint a logo on a naked female breast your artwork become politicised.
During the project we explored a many different images, poses, titles and artistic directions. It is important to remember that the artworks which you see today are not accidental. They are the result of collaboration with the model rather than an imposition of my artist’s view”.
Laurent La Gamba is a self-taught artist and started painting in the vein of the French Figuration Libre movement. Using acrylic paint on large canvases, La Gamba's early works include close-up portraits of family and friends, followed by a series of self-portraits in a photorealist style.
In 2001 La Gamba was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant and became artist in residence at the La Napoule Art Foundation (Mandelieu, France). It is during this period that he produced his first in-situ camouflage and pro-cryptic installations, which attracted international recognition with solo and group exhibitions held in Asia, Australia, Europe and USA.