Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Jonathan Yeo: Skin Deep @ The Bowes Museum

Hello lovelies!

I'm dealing with quite a departure in subject matter today than my usual light-hearted fashion chatter. I recently visited The Bowes Museum, and whilst there I viewed their latest exhibition by artist Jonathan Yeo, "Skin Deep".  Yeo's work deals with the subject of cosmetic surgery something which I feel is massively on trend in 2018.  Every time I sit down to watch television, I am constantly amazed by the amount of celebrities (and minor celebrities) that have had work done to their faces and bodies in their ongoing quest to achieve perfection through aesthetic beauty treatments.

*Jonathan Yeo talks about his work at the launch party of "Skin Deep"

I understand that it's a matter of choice; what people do to their bodies is up to them, but it's never something that has really appealed to me.  I've always considered myself a lover of natural beauty; I've never had any desire to change my face and I've always been raised with a 'grow old gracefully' mentality.  Also, I believe that the real beauty in a person comes from their insides; a beautiful mind and heart shines so brightly in spite of wrinkles and grey hairs.  It's a strange subject; I don't consider myself a vain person, nor do I find myself amazingly attractive; but when it comes to my appearance, I try not to compare myself to others and most of the time I'm relatively happy in my own skin.  I eat well, I exercise and I try to live my happiest life, but that's where it ends for me.  My Mister has a similar view; he hates what he refers to as "fake-beauty" and is certainly comfortable in his own skin too.  So why is it that the culture of celebrity nowadays is to constantly strive for aesthetic perfection?  Is it the ultimate sign of happiness to know exactly what you want from a plastic surgeon in order to achieve perfection?  Or is society constantly insecure about not being perfect enough?

'...Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections...' John Legend, All of Me

Yeo's "Skin Deep" was put together over a ten-year period.  Starting in 2008, The Aesthetic Surgery Series investigates the process of cosmetic enhancement whilst looking at a person's motivation for undergoing such intrusive surgery and society's obsession with youthfulness. Working with surgeons and witnessing live operations, Jonathan Yeo was able to combine his skill in drawing faces whilst revealing the truth behind the invasive procedures.

Extended SMAS Facelift II 2018

There's a couple of notes I need to make here before I continue.  The first is that part of the exhibition deals with breast augmentation and that there are quite a few images of breasts as a result.  Whilst I don't have a problem with this, I haven't included them here in fear of having my blog taken down or reported.  I know it's art, but people can be a bit funny about that sort of thing!  So with this in mind, I've stuck to showing the imagery of the facial augmentations.  The second point worth making is that some of the images aren't for the faint-hearted and are at times quite gruesome, and rightly so.  This exhibition wasn't intended to fluff-up cosmetic surgery, after all there are plenty of online advertisements that do just that.  No, this collection shows the whole truth behind the procedures, with quite shocking and thought-provoking results.

Rhytidectomy III (with surgeon's hands) 2011

What I found really interesting was that all of the subjects in the paintings were women.  It was just something I subtly noticed whilst walking around, but then when reading the exhibition catalogue, it seemed that Yeo had never intended it that way, but found that men who were undergoing surgery, were less enthusiastic about being featured in the paintings.  Also, it's worth noting that surgeon Miles Berry added that even towards the end of Yeo's ten-year study, the numbers hadn't changed much with 85% of his clients being women.  I wasn't at all surprised by this; I absolutely love fashion and although I'm not blaming it entirely for the rise in cosmetic surgery, glossy fashion magazines' love of airbrushing and photoshopping images add pressure to women to look perfect, giving us all unrealistic expectations of how we should look.  Add social media and its million filters into the mix and it's quite a toxic cocktail!  In relation to this, I also read that the angles our smartphone cameras use to enable us to take a selfie make some of our facial features look bigger or wider than they actually are, providing us with a unrealistic self-image!  Is it any surprise that cosmetic surgery is on the up?!

 Rhytidectomy I, 2011

 Extended SMAS Facelift, 2011

 Lower Lid Blepharoplasty II, 2012

Reduction Rhinoplasty, 2011

Whatever your view of the collection, I'd definitely recommend a visit.  There's so much to think about and discuss; it's covering something which couldn't be more current in today's society.  My summary?  I think as a nation we need to promote more positivity and self-love if we really want to see a decline in the quest for beauty and perfection.  Is perfection even that beautiful?  I really think perfection and beauty comes from our flaws, it's the quirks we have that make us unique and human.  I've always enjoyed being a little bit different, maybe that's why plastic surgery isn't for me!  I'll always strive to be the best version of myself, away from the surgeon's scalpel and I can only wish for a world where more people feel like that and find comfort from love and inner-beauty.  After all, aesthetic beauty is merely "Skin Deep".  I'd rather be remembered for the things I've achieved in life and for being kind and compassionate, than for being "beautiful".

Mother and Child 2016-a portrait of Lily Cole breastfeeding
This is my favourite from the collection and the most natural, yet weirdly the one most frequently removed from social-media!

Many thanks to Jonathan Yeo for this amazing collection, I've thoroughly enjoyed writing about it!  Also to Rachael Fletcher at the Bowes Museum for providing me with some images from the launch (starred).  All other photographs and opinions are my own; I really enjoyed the exhibition and would urge you to visit!

"Skin Deep" runs until 17th June, 2018.  Book your tickets online here

Until next time,

Kay x


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