Whilst working from my kitchen table, with the Djanogly Gallery closed for the foreseeable future, I thought what better time to bring to light some of the art works in the University’s collection. Normally, these can be difficult for the general public to see because of where they’re displayed or because they are kept in store for their protection. Each week we’ll fetch one of those works ‘out of store’. – Neil Walker, Head of Visual Arts Programming
KISS II (2007)
By Marilène Oliver (b.1977)
At first glance it’s hard to make out what’s going on in the looping lines and concentric rings of Marilène Oliver’s print. Are these the map contours of some hilly terrain or a geological formation perhaps? If you’ve deciphered the fingers of a hand on the right other graphic details come into focus and the image starts to make sense. It’s a couple – the artist and her future husband, in fact – one on top of the other, locked in a kiss. We see them as if we were at the head of their bed or hovering somewhere above.
The work was bought for the art collection in 2004 on the occasion of one of the most successful art/science projects presented at the Djanogly Gallery: namely, Marilène Oliver’s solo exhibition Intimate Distances. The previous year, the artist had contacted the MRI scanning unit at the university with an unusual request: to have each one of her family members’ bodies scanned at intervals from head to toe. She then screen-printed these scans onto clear acrylic sheets that were reassembled in stack formation so that her family were effectively reconstructed in four transparent blocks in the gallery. The figures looked like ghostly holograms trapped in ice.
Another of her works in the exhibition had a much creepier presence. Despite the title, the subject of I Know You Inside Out (2001), a single standing male, was unknown to the artist; she had literally downloaded his anatomy from the Internet. In 1993, one Joseph Paul Jernigan was executed for murder in Texas. Before his death he agreed to donate his body for scientific and medical research. It’s a moot point as to whether he knew beforehand that in death his cadaver would be frozen in a block and literally sliced in 1mm slithers that were photographed for the Visible Human Project at the University of Colorado. The images entered the public domain via the worldwide web. Oliver’s sculpture was created using the same principle as her family portraits by printing the downloaded scans onto Perspex sheets and rebuilding the body from the floor up.
The relevance of this grisly digression to our print of a tender embrace between two lovers is in the artist’s interest in digital and medical imaging. As with the family portraits, she and her partner were MRI scanned to produce the image of the kiss. Whereas the sectional scans of her family were translated into three dimensions by printing onto acrylic, here, by some technical wizardry, the separate scans have been superimposed in a two-dimensional print.
The artist’s concern in both these works is to reinvest our digitised world with some sense of our humanity.
In doing so she reinterprets for the twenty-first century a subject made so popular in the famous works of Rodin and Klimt.
To find out more about Marilène Oliver, and to see more of her artworks, visit Art UK's website.