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Exhibition review: Nadav Kander – BODIES. 6 Women, 1 Man

  Friday 11th January 2013

For a limited time, we are invited to view the latest work of world-renowned photographer Nadav Kander. Born in Israel in 1961 and currently residing in London, Kander has photographed a plethora of the rich, famous and infamous, from David Lynch to Barack Obama, the latter featuring in a 52-portrait series commissioned by New York Times Magazine entitled Obama’s People. However, Kander is best known for Yangtze – The Long River, for which he was awarded the Prix Pictet in 2009. Having recently included his work in the National Portrait Gallery’s Road to 2012, he’s back with his first exhibition of 2013 – BODIES. 6 Women, 1 Man

Kander audrey_with_toes_and_wrist_bentKander explains his latest showing as “Revealed yet concealed. Shameless yet shameful. Ease with unease. Beauty and destruction, these paradoxes are displayed in all my work; an inquiry into what it feels like to be human.” In this exhilaratingly existential show, we see a variety of stripped-down subjects in various unusual poses, each coated in white marble dust and set against a murky black backdrop. Larger than life-sized, they’re startlingly presented as if they were classical statues – cherubic, Elizabethan, elegant, grandiose yet understated. The simplicity of his images combined with the complexity of their message is a tool Kander has long continued to perfect, and his remarkable ability to capture the mood of the moment has never before been conveyed so dramatically.

Kander2It’s almost photography as theatre, engaging the viewer from the very first glance. You’re initially struck by the fluent fluorescent skin. Larval and trenchant, it’s skilfully contrasted against the insouciant eternal black backdrop. The mysterious positioning of the naked bodies adds to a sense of secrecy, the faces often turned away from the camera. Although they’re fully “revealed”, they appear to be keeping something away from the viewer. All this makes for an intensely interactive and intimate experience between the work and one’s self. 

There are echoes of the paintings of St Sebastian (Andrea Mantegna, 1490). The difference being instead of arrows penetrating the helpless victim, the pain is coming from an invisible source – the judging eyes of the stranger viewing it. Thoughts, unknowable to them, pierce their soul with your sardonic gaze. 

It’s a superbly executed work, showcasing the vulnerability and mystery of the human form, questioning its triumphs and celebrating its flaws. This latest offering should most certainly be ranked among the best of Kander, and it’s really no surprise that his star continues to rise. 

Verdict: ••••

Jamie Merrick

Nadav Kander – BODIES. 6 Women, 1 Man, is at Flowers Gallery, 21 Cork Street until 9th February 2013. Admission is free. 

For further information and to book tickets, click here.

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