I have a new state-of-the-art heroine and her name is Dr. Victoria Bateman. For her birthday she and her husband decided to commission a painting of her by the Artist Anthony Connolly. In the nude.
What do you think when I tell you Victoria is also an Economics Fellow at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge?
In many ways it’s really such a simple thing – a naked body – but what she has done has sent blasts through so many mental walls. It’s a beautifully observed and performed satire on perceptions, maximally liberated and impeccably crafted introducing a huge pink elephant to hang languorously in the air….that society does not believe a nude can be an intelligent, academic woman, comfortable in her own skin.
Victoria says: ‘When I first came up with the idea I thought it would be a conventional portrait but the more I thought about it, I realised that doesn’t really represent the truth about me. The more I went through the artistic process, the more I began to think about women and their role and portrayal in society. At the age of 34 I am comfortable in my own body. Reaching a certain age and realising that life is not infinite, I wanted to capture a moment in time. Initially this snapshot was going to be conventional. But the more I thought about it, the more I could see the value in creating a work that was both ‘honest’ – that showed me comfortable in my own skin – and that, as in my academic work, was not afraid to break through the pre-existing barriers and to raise important questions.’
Unlike so many historic nudes there’s a different power of suggestion and behaviour in her portrait. In the past many poses have been of women caught unawares, captured in an unwitting moment, an onlooker peeking round a door. But here Victoria stares directly out giving the painting an extraordinary force. She chose a natural, relaxed pose, beyond the superficiality of a TV soap, which says more for female body confidence than any written word ever has.
‘My view is that we will never eradicate the overtly sexualised images of women – they will always be profitable to produce, as well I understand as an economist. instead I feel that the best way of providing an antidote is to also make sure that we show women as they truly are – it is a confident, relaxed, natural and of a named woman who is not being objectified with fake additions and photoshopping.’
‘Some people might say I’m not better than a page 3 girl but the message behind it is I am not just a body. ( And conversely – I’d say – that she is not just an academic – she has a body) ‘I wanted to show that each woman has a female figure that literally walks around with her every moment in her life – it’s not simply sexual.’
Victoria Bateman has weilded the power to defy industry moulds and underline herself as an individual. I love her because too many people let who they are become secondary to what everyone else wants them to be and it’s then that we build up walls for ourselves and others.
Bravo Victoria! Brave, courageous and brilliant.
Laters, Kate x