Contour States is the first major UK public solo show by British artist Samantha Donnelly. With a strong interest in the images presented in today’s media that continue to idealise and objectify the human form, the exhibition features new work that explores representations of female identity in photography, TV, film and advertisements.
Underpinned by references to art history and popular culture, Donnelly’s distinctive work is concerned with the powerful effects of media imagery on the individual, and in particular with how the portrayal of women in the media shapes and defines them. She combines traditional media with disparate everyday objects and images from magazines and film, to create fragmented collages and sculptural assemblages.
For this exhibition, strung forms of delicate, semi-painted plaster casts of mannequins – mass-produced, generic and sexualised figures of the female body – will be anchored into the architecture of the gallery and displayed alongside three-dimensional sculptures. By adding further layers of objects including buttons, lace, net, small mirrors, false eyelashes and ribbons, Donnelly provides the finished work with a fragmented and abstract quality – some pieces appear relic-like and precious, whereas others are seemingly transient and ephemeral, on the edge of dissolving.
Contour States creates an illusion of erotically charged nudity, but fundamentally only offers a fiction to buy into and invest in. Rather than just presenting a finalised work, Donnelly actively encourages visitors to engage with the process through which meanings are made and unmade.