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Title: The male muse : intimacy, distance and touch
Author: Mathias, Nerys
ISNI:       0000 0004 5352 6620
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2015
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In September 2014 whilst standing in front of Albrecht Durer’s Adam and Eve, my heart stirred, this painting from the 16th Century actually provoked a physical reaction in me. This was not the first time I had seen this painting but this time I was touched. I was not drawn to the Christian subject matter but I was drawn to Durer’s oil painting. The painting(s) are of a man and a woman, both nude. Their bodies appear oddly shaped, with their pale lit bodies against a dark background. They are removed from an earthly setting, they stand on a lunar-like ground. Adam’s feet are on tiptoe, Eve stands on one foot, the other coquettishly resting behind the front foot. Is this a strange dance? Celestial darkness frames the couple. The green fauna covering their genitals, like 8 emerald highlights, is exquisite yet almost comic in the exacting delicacy. The frames of the panels stop Adam and Eve touching; the frame is a barrier between them. They do not meet each other’s gaze. His mouth is open, hers is closed. Both hold an apple in anticipation of taking the forbidden bite. Leaning in to each other the vulnerable gesture of Adam’s right hand takes the viewers eyes on diagonal journey via the foliage up to the apple. This diagonal line is replicated with Eve’s hands. It is Adam that holds my gaze. His golden curls remind me of Durer’s self-portraits. I am drawn to his parted lips, their cherry redness inviting, wanting to be kissed. His body is young and old, gnarly and hairless. At the time of painting he would have been 36, an age I have been whilst studying for the Doctorate - no longer young.1 Being intrigued by the man who painted this painting, led me to find propositions that Durer may have been homosexual or bisexual. ‘Meanwhile, in private letters, he rhapsodized over "handsome" soldiers. He was particularly fond of one of his apprentices.’ (Cohen,2012) Like me, his amorous or indeed narcissistic gaze rests on Adam and those red lips. Slowly I understood that Adam and Eve was a touchstone for my practice. The painting holds the key ingredients to my work: a man and a woman, intimate yet distant. My photographs use a similar jewel-like lighting set against darkness. There is unexpected desire in the image. I left the painting thinking of the light against the darkness, love and death; the beginning of a journey.
Supervisor: Kempadoo, Roshini; Tobe, Renée Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Prof.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral