Flesh breeds flesh - An essay (2019)
Written by Kitt Buch
Edited by Jesper Bruun
When I paint meat, it is not a comment on my own meat consumption. It would otherwise be obvious with the climate crisis breathing down the neck. But no, meat is a picturesque exercise. It's texture, color and expression. The aesthetics of the flesh often seem grotesque and can be a great means to sparking thoughts and feelings among the viewer of one's work. Meat is also animalistic and can provide an aggressive violent association depending on how it is used. And then it's beautiful: the marbles, the reddish, purple, yellowish shades of color that carry equal parts ferocity and tranquility in them. The meat is dead, but in my paintings fresh – as if it had just cut out the animal and put on the character.
The father of pop surrealism, Mark Ryden, painted his meat works - Carnation and Meat, for example - some 20 years ago. For Ryden, the meat paintings were not a comment on his own attitude to eating meat either. He's actually quite a meat eater himself, he says. For Ryden, it was more an observation of when humans consider an animal to be meat. When the animal goes from being considered a subject to an object. From animals grassing in the field to meat on our plates. Personally, I have become fascinated by meat as a symbol, as a surface and as what is beneath the surface.
What does it matter if the meat is on the outside or whether it is turned inside out? In my works, the meat is shaped like rabbit masks, the flesh is collars on dresses, and there is meat used as a tie. But the charactor itself – human, animal or a mixture – is also meat. The meat becomes the means of discussion, provocation and reflection. And it might even make someone smile a bit, because there is also a humorous aspect of painting meat.
An example is the sketch of The Meat mobile. It's an old-fashioned soapbox car that has bacon, ribeye steaks and chops as boards. The wheels are made up of Vienna sausages. An overgrown clown girl drives the car. She wears a Victorian suit with her legs pulled up under her to fit into the little car. Her hair flutters behind her as the meat mobile speeds towards the viewer set against a picturesque landscape. Here the meat is something you can build from, a material like wood, plastic or clay.
Meat breeds meat. I no longer have to think hard about where the meat fits in and how it fits in. The inspiration emerges, produced by my own study of the texture and color of the flesh. It is now a natural part of my universe that makes the wonderland more surreal and controversial.
To portray meat as one would portray a human being can be considered grotesque. But isn't flesh the same on the outside as well as on the inside? It is the same flesh on the same subject. I return to Mark Ryden's study of when an animal becomes flesh in our eyes. For when does man become flesh in our eyes? The two Edwardian inspired portraits Missus Meathead and Mister Meathead both have heads of steak with a single eye looking directly out at the viewer. Are these persons or meat?
The paintings are filled with different layers of interpretation and you can choose yourself how to see it. Beneath the surface lurks the symbolism. The call from this meaty essay is to see the different symbols in the paintings in order to better interpret your own reaction to it. The intention of the image is defined by the viewer, so what can it be? Or in other words:
All art is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their own peril.
It's the spectator, and not life, that really mirrors.
- Oscar Wilde