‘Superhumanism’ was a term used by the gallery owner, Nicholas Treadwell to describe a style of art exclusively devoted to the exploration of the human form. The word defines art in this style as representing ‘urban living, conveyed in a vivid and accessible way’. As an artist, I took great inspiration from visting ‘Treadwell’s Art Mill’, when it was located in Little Germany, Bradford in the late 1980’s. I am still very much inspired by art concerned with the human form. Such art can be erotic, grotesque, poetic, amusing or sometimes just downright bleak. While some of the artists I explore in this post would not strictly align themselves with Treadwell’s movement, they do represent these themes in their exploration of the human form.
Barrett is a Sheffield-born sculptor who developed a style that many critics described as grotesque. His studies of contorted human forms wearing tortured expressions, and posing in excruciating shapes are incredibly visceral.
Barrett’s work split audiences greatly in that while some felt insulted and horrified by his figures, others were highly impressed. Arnold Schwarzenegger was one man who invested in one of Barrett’s expensive creations, and should I ever have a platinum credit line, I’d be happy to pick up one of his provocative pieces.
Gormley has made his career around studying the human form by way of public sculpture. His gargantuan figure, ‘Angel Of The North’ caringly watches over travellers along the A1 road just south of Newcastle Upon Tyne and has done so since 1998.
One of his earlier works, ‘Field’ dating from the early 1980’s involves Gormley’s tribute to the terra cotta army, with a carpet of creepy 6 inch high figures filling the floor of the space in which they are exhibited.
Bob Carlos Clarke
Bob Carlos Clarke was a highly talented Irish photographer based in London.
In 2006, he tragically took his own life following bouts of depression.
His work surrounded his fascination for capturing the female form.
Sometimes erotic, maybe even offensive to some, but always stylish.
Clarke’s work included portraits of celebrities such as footballer Vinnie Jones, actress Rachel Weisz, Stones musician Keith Richards as well as a variety of other figure models dressed provocatively in PVC clothing. ‘Shooting sex‘ provides an excellent retrospective of his work as well as an autobiographical account of the artist’s life.
Papa Ninja, as his online handle describes him, is of the new crop of photoshop artists. His art-style typically depicts alternative-scene women, and often involves various combinations of retro-chic, latex costumes, cheesecake and sometimes even tentacles.
Birault has a magnificent talent for capturing very natural-looking figures through remarkably well-lit and posed, stylised characters. The faces don’t present us with the common generic beauty that we are so used to seeing in magazines, music videos and the media, but instead with cheekier and more humanly believable faces that are saturated with personality.
The human form will be endlessly explored by artists throughout time. Each artist that visits the human form brings their own unique frame to the table. The possibilities for these contexts are limitless, with so many fascinating notions to explore.
Treadwell’s collection is now housed in Austria and is worth checking out.