The Vessel of the Self

Photographs 1968 – 78, Bulle Galleries, Melbourne, 2001

The Artist’s Mouth

In 1999, Godwin Bradbeer told Mark Pennings - ‘I am committed to the human figure - that where my loyalty lies’. Bradbeer’s concern for the body is not for its academic anatomy but for what he calls ‘subcutaneous order’ - existential, occasionally lightened by subtle erotic promise, often tormented, always mysterious.

This collection of self-portrait photographs from 1968 to 1978 represents one approach to the problematic male nude, which had fallen out of fashion by the mid-nineteeth century and has not been restored by Gay Liberation. Gay artists have revived the nude as a subject - not out of concern for the body itself but as a vehicle for ideology. Francis Bacon made the body a metaphor for chaos and lost it altogether; Tom of Finland glorified it as an emblem of gay fascism; for Robert Mapplethorpe, the body was an erotic engine; Joel Peter Witkin exploited the bodys parts for queerly subversive collages.

Excerpt for ‘The Vessel of the Self’ by Beatrice Faust.