THE EROTICISATION OF A CHAIR LEG
Micro Musings no.4/ Anthony J. Parké
I think of the wood in my paintings like the mahogany-coloured shell of a Lepidoptera chrysalis…the shiny wood-coloured chrysalis which encapsulates a wealth of potential. The butterfly is held in stasis, caged in a wood-like cathedral. She is about to enter a further stage of personal physical/spiritual development. It’s undecided the nature of her existence as she waivers between captivity and transcendency. Either way, the butterfly within it’s wood-like shell remains filled with potential.
Wood, in my world picture, is a highly erotic material. For example, picture a polished piece of dark mahogany, or turned wood on the legs of a chair. It may appear sinewy and curvaceous. It may possess a similarity to the lithe form of a well-honed human body. A honed body can shine and shimmer in presence. It may reveal musculature which is primed and in an optimum mode of sexual potency. So can a piece of perfectly polished and glistening wood feel taught and erotic. Run your hands along an old mahogany banister to experience its seductive quality. The female form and turned wood have a similar aesthetic. Both are highly erotic when viewed in their essential form; a form which is fetishistic in nature.
One could barely deny the fleshiness of a beautifully polished piece of wood. Carved in a certain fashion, finished just so, it reflects the fleshiness of say a ripe plum. Just as the surface skin of a plum has the translucent quality of human skin, equally, a well cared for piece of polished wood, carved lovingly by a deft hand exudes a similar quality.
A heavily varnished and polished piece of wood has a sense of hidden depth much like human skin. It has a flesh-like transparency to it. There are shapes and patterns within wood which literally take on human form. The spiralling, twisting forms of table legs can seem like the umbilical cords holding aloft the trunk of some unnameable creature. The rotund, plump ball on the banister can seem breast-like in appearance. When carved in a certain manner by an adroit craftsmen, wood seems perceptibly. fluid in form like the curves of the human fIgure.
However, one of its greatest kinships to the erotic notion lies is its mystery. Here I shift focus from turned wood to, for example, the wooden drawers of a cabinet. This is less of a surface, shape or textural alignment, and more of a symbolic meaning derived from a space which may open and shut, reveal and conceal. The binary opposites of this action creates a tension, a dynamic. The drawers of say a curiosity cabinet are doors with a mystery inherent within. This is not the wood itself, but how it’s structured and the symbolism it evokes. These are like the darkened orifices of procreation. Note they can shut in an instant evoking psycho-sexual references to notions of vagina dentata. It is a potentially dangerous mystery, but an equally inviting and seductive one.
Staircases, turned wood, drawers and cabinets, as mentioned, are highly-charged erotic objects and appear throughout my paintings. At the same time, they are the personification of the fluid emanations of the body. They are sexually charged when viewed through appropriate filters. Painting turned wood is like painting a stream of fluid, a movement… a flow of form and liquid combined.
The origins of a turned piece of wood, let’s say a table or chair, can shift from female to male in symbolism. They may appear phallic in nature, as seen through fertility symbolism. In many cultures the tree has played a part in sexual symbolism. It is a totem of male fertility. In Biblical stories we have the Tree of Life, the fig leaf, the fall of Adam from the bite of an apple. All associated with ‘wood’. The Christmas tree is alleged to have been an ancient pagan fertility symbol. It is adorned with testicular appendages, sparkling baubles hanging from a phallic structure. Further it is sprayed with the sparkling tinsel of semen-like offerings. There are many reasons why I include wood in my paintings. Yes, for its erotic associations, but also for its symbolism as a ‘cathedral of potential’. It symbolises both containment and potential liberty within a material which is both seductive, erotic, sadistic and liberating at once.
Anthony J. Parké