EXHIBITIONS | ALLEN JONES
Jones’s challenge lay in creating an image to entice, rather than shock, to subtly coax potential viewers, not outrage the public. He needed to create an image to represent a serious film depicting a specific type of sex and love, rather than one implying casual pornography.
When he did submit his image of a leather-clad, whip wielding, brunette with a severe haircut and fierce glare, the distributor deemed it too overtly sexual for newspaper advertisements. He asked Jones to make her blonde and remove the whip. Jones obliged – the maîtresse became a blonde and the whip was changed to a more coy set of keys.
Once he was paid, Jones replaced the set of keys with the whip – so there she is, staring right at you from between the translucent curtains, hand firmly gripping a whip. The letters of ‘Maîtresse’ are by her feet, with the ‘T’ and ‘S’ fallen over, a firm representation of her domination. It is painted in oil with clean edges, and sharp colour contrasts. She is certainly not a beautiful woman in the traditional sense, but she is strong, and the use of the corset, whip, gloves, boots and the bold look in her eyes, would make even the most naïve viewer conscious that she is the one in control.
As Jones developed his works, we see the same woman in many different guises and poses. From 2008, in Maîtresse II we see her from behind, with the letters of ‘maîtresse’ now on the inside of the curtain – perhaps we are meant to submit and follow her through, or maybe we are already inside, ensnared by her,whilst she entraps another wilful submissive.
Maîtresse IV, is the strongest image of the collection. She is now a brunette and the curtains are almost drawn, you catch only a glimpse of her supple body, the rest silhouetted by the curtains. She holds your gaze and her whip snakes outunder the curtain. This is the most powerful image, the one which quite simply states ‘I am in control’. The lines are sharp and the colours are clear. In contrast Maîtresse V is blonde and wearing a pink cape. She looks weak, almost nervous, with a peculiarly blank stare.
Jones has developed his ‘Maîtresse’, exploring space, form and colour and in doing so creating different personas. He does not allow us to objectify her body and what she represents. Each image realises her as an individual person. The maîtresse may represent your utmost fantasies and she may wear a mask of sorts, but she is also a strong and a highly accessible representation of a sexually powerful female figure.
Allen Jones: Maîtresse is on view from 26 February through 29 April at Michael Werner Gallery in London.
All images courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery, London
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