Body painting never fails to impress me. I’ve been at a festival where a few people were painted. It’s impressive to see how the human skin transforms into something amazing; a walking canvas, an animal or a part of nature.
You may know that “we” were not the first people to do that. Indigenous people from many parts of the world took to painting their skin long ago. A few days ago, on Twitter, I found some images from the equatorial Guinea body painting festival and I thought to share those with you.
Contrary to the old days, these people do ‘comply’ to the ‘laws of decency’ so they aren’t entirely naked.
In the old days, hunters would colour their body with natural dyes to camouflage themselves in the forest in order to hunt animals.
The hunting tradition has ended, but the body painting is continued as a festival of colours.
Seeing the colours that are used in the festival, it’s obvious that they are no longer related to hunting. The vibrant colours, like sported by the lady below, are certainly not for camouflage, but they depict more the joy of life and, clearly, the amazing possibilities of the human canvas!
We should have more possibilities and options to decorate ourselves this way when the weather allows for it. Textiles can dress in the most radiating colours. We naturists should be able to carry ourselves in a similar, colourful “fashion”. (Pun intended!)
Bodypainting is an amazing form of (self)-expression for me. It’s something that no amount of clothing can come close to, because paint on a skin can be applied in so many ways that a tailor can’t ever keep up.
And, like in the image on the left, anyone can paint someone else and go crazy. Poor tailor yet again.
The efficiency of bodypainting.
I can hear you wonder what this means. But, according to me, there is an efficiency to bodypainting over clothes. When you want to be very varied (I admit, those 2 words next to each other made me grin 🙂 ), you will need a lot of stuff.
Lets start with clothes. Being varied with clothes means something like this. And maybe that isn’t even enough. You will need a pile of clothes that is going to set your wallet back quite some. We all know the price of clothes, right? Not many of us are full-time naturists, so clothes come into the picture at various stages of life, no matter we don’t like that.
This is not uncommon among naturists, for obvious reasons. Being nude is the idea, so variation with clothes is already a no-no.
Then there is paint. A can of paint can go a long way. Service a lot of bodies. And it can create anything you set your mind to. Of course, the final result will also depend on your painting skills, but using paint is a lot easier than making clothes, I hope we all agree on that.
So here we have a nice number of things in which paint is more efficient than clothes. Usually it’s cheaper, it’s more versatile, it has less of a learning curve and with less you can do more. If you have clothes, those will only fit certain people, where paint fits anyone.
The beauty of the body.
And with all this, I haven’t even brought up the beauty of the body, and how it can be emphasised by paint. And we can do that in the most personal way. If three people are asked to paint one specific model, you will end up with three entirely different designs of the same starting point.
This is why I love bodypainting.
Do you have experience with bodypainting? Either having done it or having it done to you? What was it like? I am curious.
Body painting fascinates me. It’s incredible to see what artists can do to a canvas of skin. How they transform people into walking and talking pieces of art. I took the picture on the left (click it for a larger version) at a fantasy fair here in the Netherlands. It was the first time they had a live body painting demonstration, and the fact people were allowed to take photos was quite unique.
The light on the image on the right is bad, sorry for that, but the sun was out in full blaze. (This image is also clickable for a larger version.)
This lady was being transformed in a universe. Very beautiful to witness.
It’s stunning to see how these artists pour themselves into their work, creating beautiful images. Another interesting thing to learn while watching them work was to see how long this actually takes! It’s not like tossing on some colours, dabbing a few more blotches with a brush and that’s it. The models have to stand there for hours. Literally. If you think about having your body painted one day, make sure you’re up to the physical challenge. You stand there, at times with your arms stretched out, for a LONG time.
Another (clickable) image with even poorer light. Still I want to show it to you.
This model was transformed into a dragon-like creature. Not only paint but also foam stubs, painted in the right colours.
As I walked around there and watched these people at work, I wondered how much effort had to go into the works of Spencer Tunick, the man who created the Sea of Hull and the amazing rush of red people in Munich, Germany a while ago.
World Bodypainting Festival
Here is a video from World Bodypainting Day 2016. An opportunity for you to see how much work this really is.
It is an amazing way to decorate a person. More versatile and more personal than any kind of clothing can be. If ever I have the chance to be painted in such a way I’ll certainly grab it. I already wonder what I would like to have on me.
What would your favourite colours, scenes and/or patterns be?
Rediscovering the Radical Feminism of the Neo Naturists
By izabella scott
Aug 17th, 2016 12:39 pm
“The Neo Naturists like taking their clothes off for the sake of it,” Christine Binnie and Wilma Johnson wrote in a 1985 manifesto—and that’s exactly what they did. A British underground art movement born out of the 1980s, the Neo Naturists were a body-painting trio of female flashers, made up of Christine, her sister Jennifer, and their friend Johnson.
The artists began to appear on the London club scene around 1981, turning up at Heaven in Soho (one of London’s first gay clubs) or the punk music venue The Fridge in Brixton, adorned in nothing but paint. They would perform on stage, chanting songs and throwing up their legs in an unruly version of the cancan. At other times, they’d simply flash at the crowd. Beneath their overcoats they had perfected a number of looks painted directly onto their bodies, including trompe l’oeil lingerie, and wild, grinning faces that transformed breasts into eyes and belly buttons into nostrils.
The Neo Naturists had their heyday from 1981–1986, but they have reformed this summer for a retrospective at Studio Voltaire in London. The show is an archival assemblage of paintings, slides and photographs, low-fi videos recorded in nightclubs, newspaper clippings and other ephemera—and, pressed on the gallery walls, body-prints made by the Neo Naturists themselves, some of whom painted their bodies for the first time in 20 years.
The group has its roots in the punk anarchy of 1980s London, an era marked by the ruthless free market spirit ushered in by Margaret Thatcher and the subcultures that emerged in resistance to it. One of those was a cross-dressing scene known as New Romanticism, which was a breeding ground for exquisitely androgynous club kids like Boy George and Marilyn. The Neo Naturists were part of that scene, collaborating with Marilyn as well as other now-famous artists such as Grayson Perry and filmmaker John Maybury.
As much as they were aligned with the New Romantics, they were also satirists of them, deliberately positioning themselves in opposition to the scene’s slick sophistication and skinny bodies, a form of dandyism that was largely enjoyed by men. Instead, the Neo Naturists were rebellious, curvaceous, and pagan. Their main concern was to take pleasure in the act, and to celebrate the natural forms of their bodies.
“I swapped my Flesh Tint oil paint for some blue and gold body paint and transformed her into a voluptuous version of Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus,” Johnson recalls—in the exhibition’s catalogue essay—of the first time she painted Christine. They freely incorporated materials close to hand, taping household items to their bodies, and their 1985 manifesto includes an inventory: “Boiled crab, shrimps, tin foil, gold leaf, paper doilies, biscuits, peanuts, bottle of wine, Scotch pancakes, contraceptive sheaths, squid, sheep’s heart, bikini briefs, sausages, bacon and eggs, freezer bag wombs, apples, burning incense, knives and forks, £10 notes, sequins, vitamins, tins of tuna, and of course, lots of Sellotape.”
In one of their most iconic works, Flashing in the British Museum (1982), Christine donned a shaggy coat and pranced through the British Museum, flashing her painted body beside Egyptian relics and Greek antiquities. (“Just wear a big coat,” she once advised would-be flashers: “It’s easy!”) Another performance, Pink Punk Yoga (1982), at The Fridge in Brixton blended the incongruous practices of punk and meditation, while Sexist Crabs (1983) at the Zap Club in Brighton was a chaotic gambol around the stage with seafood taped to their bodies.
They eschewed rehearsals, preferring ritualistic improvisation, and sometimes they simply took to the streets, as in Swimming and Walking Experiment (1984), when they cavorted in the fountains below London’s Brutalist tower block Centre Point—and got arrested by the police. Occasionally, they made the headlines, outraging some conservative hacks and delighting others. “Hooray for the Bare Binnies!” crooned the Daily Star of 1984.
For women to take such pleasure in their art was deeply subversive. Like all heretics, they didn’t play by anyone else’s rules. They opted for spontaneous exuberance, in contrast to the message of Thatcherite conservatism (be professional!) or the affected, male-dominated New Romantics (be flamboyant!).“The Neo Naturists are casual to the point of excess,” their manifesto states. “[They] believe that gorgeousness is the ultimate intelligence.”
As Studio Voltaire curator Jessica Vaughan points out, one important aspect to understand about the Neo Naturists is that their display of the female body was in no way pornographic. “What they were doing was radical,” says Vaughan, “because they were delighting in the female form in a way that isn’t titillating or sexualized, but instead is something full of humor and celebration.”
The Neo Naturists did not commodify their practice, and they were never picked up by a commercial gallery. By the end of the 1980s, they had moved out of the squat they shared and dispersed. Many of the men from their circle, however, went on to become successful British artists, including Perry, Maybury, and Michael Clark. “It’s not the first time that female artists were forgotten,” Vaughan says, “while male counterparts, who were incredibly influenced by the women around them, went on to become household names.”
There are a multitude of reasons why the Neo Naturists slipped through the net. For one, nobody quite knew what to make of them. “Feminists see us as porno sex cabaret, while your average person sees us as butch dykes,” Jennifer said in an interview in the 1980s. “We’re not either.” Their work was only obliquely political, more concerned with celebrating the personal: their friendships with one another, and their bodies. “The Neo Naturists are works of art,” the manifesto quips, “and the world is their private view.”
It wasn’t entirely over for the Neo Naturists in 1986, but they left behind a fragmented opus. Following the group’s dispersal, Christine went solo and kept the movement active well into this millennium. In the 1990s, she assembled a small archive in her east London apartment, and one of the Studio Voltaire curators’ projects has been to expand it. “We’ve been trying to get a comprehensive overview of the movement, and a secure chronology,” Vaughan says. “There’s a quite a bit of guesswork because Wilma, Jen, and Christine might all remember things differently. But looking back, they were an incredible counterpoint to the queer male voices of the time, and they mustn’t be overlooked.”
Since launching the Gaia Project in 2011 Orly Faya has painted people into landscapes all around the world.
Each ‘merging’ as she refers to the body paintings is a unique experience for both the subject and the artist.