I've been working without a break on the studies for my Dangerous Career Babes series. One is done, two are nearing completion, and I am about to begin a fourth.
As I've written before, the entire Career Babe series has always been more conceptual, objective rather than subjective. In the early versions, the proportions, which were the same for all the paintings, referred to magazine spreads and billboards; the paint was enamel: lustrous and hard, to mimic the appearance of glossy pages. The Dangerous Career Babes are bigger – 2.0m x 1.7m– with proportions mimicking a computer screen or those giant LCD screens that are everywhere above the streets in Tokyo. They're painted in oil, an oblique reference to a shift in cultural values: once, owning a unique oil painting was considered aspirational, a measure of social standing, culture and wealth. Now, aspirational objects are ubiquitous, branded, mass produced and are simply a measure of how much money you've made. Art is still an aspirational object, but it has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with recognisable brands (Koons, Hirst, Warhol, and so on).The Dangerous Career Babes are deliberately repetitive. The poses are identical and sexually provocative. The only changes are the costumes – clothing and props – and the background colours, which imply context. Our reaction to each painting is predicated on how we perceive the costume and the colours, and the ethical and social values we associate with them. They define our perception of each Dangerous Career Babe's deeper identity. The initial figure was drawn from life – I sketched myself from a mirror, and used photographs which were then adjusted to give idealised proportions – but the final image is, well, a blank. It is 'no woman'. It has no real personality, no trace of individuality. With each new painting, with each repetition, the subject that was once me, the artist, becomes more and more detached from me.Each work is an object that is designed to be easily consumed. Dark outlines create boundaries for, and reinforce the flat simplicity of, each colour. They make the overall image seem familiar, because the format is recognisably cartoon-like and closer to advertising than art, with its calculated, deliberately clichéd, easy-to-remember message. The colours are triggers, and psychologically symbolic.I know the works are finished when I can look at them and nothing in their execution is abrasive, nothing stands out. Everything must be refined so that it's easy to 'get'. Nothing must jar. The viewer must be transformed into a consumer without the transaction being recognised. A dark, cynical idea to be digested easily, immediately, unquestionably, just like candy. And like candy, I hope, too much of them will be bad for you.