I think the most vital change in the portrayal of the human body to take place in the 20th century, which naturally continues to this day, is that artists have virtually abandoned attempts to achieve perfection of form and representation. Both in terms of perfection in mimicking reality and in the technological sense of crowning an image, for example, by applying a final layer of varnish, which would not only fuse the colours, but also, in a way, would enclose the work in an imaginary case. The finality of the picture and its framing created a gaping distance between the work and the recipient. … It came to prominence in the early decades of the 20th century, especially in the context of expressionism, which does not require a finished form. On the contrary, the nervous liveliness of the watercolours (Bourgeois, Dumas), elegant ink sketches (Emin), fine pencil drawings (De Bruyckere) and sweeping large‑ format drawings (Smith) are conduits that bring out sensitivity, the barely describable or visually hard to capture conveyance of the emotional state of mind in its procedural openness and ability to express that, which is invisible, yet realistically conceivable and experienced. As for perception, it is essential not to forget to switch to a different code of perception and, instead of seeing the surface and form and reading it through literary knowledge or the schematics of current correctness, to tune into one’s own empathy and the ability to recall a personal experience or enrich it with a new aspect.
Petr Nedoma, essay excerpt from the catalogue Flaesh, published by Galerie Rudolfinum to accompany the exhibition.
Artists: Marlene Dumas, Tracey Emin, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Kiki Smith and Louise Bourgeois