The British Institute of Radiology has an artist in residence program which is currently hosting Hugh Turvey, known for his x-ray art of items like a Ducati bike, elephant skulls, and a female foot in a stiletto. Femme Fatale (below) is inspired by Helmut Newton's 1994 X-Ray with Chain (right) - a gelatin silver print that recently went for almost $50,000 at a Christie's auction.
"This concept of revealing truth is one of the simplest structures in storytelling and for me simply exemplified in the 1999 film The Matrix when Neo (Keanu Reeves) has his epiphany, perceives his true environment and its structure of the Matrix is revealed to him…it is a glorious moment of self-realisation giving birth to strength, understanding and purpose," explains Turvey about his love of all-things x-rayed. He cites as early influences Russian Constructivist Rodchenko for "unusual architecture, rhythm, and plasticity" (interestingly, Rodchenko was also one of Helmut Newton's big influences) and the idea of seeing the unseen which the photographic studies of Dr Harold E Edgerton explored.
"One of my earliest images is of my wife Artemi’s leg produced in 1998 when she was 29," continues Turvey. "It is a beautiful hand-coloured x-ray image of her tibia, fibula, ossa tarsi, metatarsals and phalanges or simply titled ‘foot in stiletto’. It is a modern scientific vision of a ‘femme fatale’ … the allure of the woman in a stiletto and the visual insight to how the foot is indubitably contorted." (A larger collection of his personal work and collaborative work - such as a shark x-ray surf board, a collection of botanicals and the magnificent elephant head X-ray - will be on display from February 12-23, 2014 at London's Oxo Tower.)
Radiation physicist Arie van’t Riet moonlights as an x-ray artist, digitizing traditional x-ray images and using Photoshop to add color (below). The color does make the images pop and highlight just how beautiful science and nature can be. "Looking with X-ray eyes to nature," is how he characterizes his artistic after-hours endeavors. "That's what I like to experience with my X-ray camera. I prefer X-ray objects of ordinary scenes like a butterfly near a flower, a fish in the ocean, a mouse in the field, a heron along the riverside, a bird in a tree and so on. Each time it is challenging me to arrive at an X-ray photograph that represents the sentiment of the scene, do raise questions and excite curiosity. I hope...I succeeded."
Artist Nick Veasey uses X-ray imagery to protest our society-wide "obsession with superficiality." From what we wear to what we weigh to where we live and how we get about, it's a looksist world which Veasey wants to delve beneath. "We all make assumptions based on the external visual aspects of what surrounds us and we are attracted to people and forms that are aesthetically pleasing. In contemporary life, where so much of what we see has been embellished or has a level of artifice, the honesty and integrity the x-ray reveals has a simple, pure elegance," he explains. "It reveals the subjects from the inside out and allows us to appreciate what the world around us is truly made of." (Below is his Jimmy Choo December 2006 - C-Type Print 594 x 420mm / 23 x 16.5" / Edition of 10)
This fascination with knowing about our innerselves I think became an obsession as science has allowed us to see inside ourselves and our world, even down to the quantum level. Just being able to see what makes it all tick, knowing how matters are contructed is the first important step in understanding it. Beyond just labeling it. “I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something," observed physicist Richard Feynman. "What I cannot create, I do not understand." While the goal of looking within might not be to build it, it certainly is about understanding it. (image)
While it's an undeniably dumb movie, 1987's Innerspace heralded the age of just that: the unseen world within. Dennis Quaid plays a naval aviator who is shrunk and supposed to be injected into a rabbit, but through filmic hijinx, ends up in the body of an unsuspecting hypochondriac played by Martin Short. Like I said, dumb plot, but interesting timing. And timing is really everthing, no? Particularly when it comes to what obsesses us, which, in art, manifests in work that resonates in pop culture. "To mix my metaphors," continues Veasey, "we all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, that beauty is more than skin deep. By revealing the inside, the quintessential element of my art speculates upon what the manufactured and natural world really consists of."
Here is the podcast I did about this, Episode 65 - I X-Ray Thru U Artistically, which covers everything from the Helmut Newton X-Ray shoe to physicist Richard Feynman and that awesomely dumb 80s movie! (image)
Music: Fig Leaf Rag - Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com
- Lesley Scott