One of my favourite exhibits from the Cindy Sherman show was the Chanel series (2010-2012) which emerged from a commission for POP magazine. In what seems to be typical Sherman fashion – acute observations of social pressures bordering on the absurd – these works subvert our expectations of the glamorous through awkward and slightly ridiculously clothed characters. Dressed I clothes too rigid, too tight, these characters stand against a digitally rendered background.
The above piece is one I had seen a few years ago in art class. The whole time I thought this was a painting until I see it in the gallery and realise it is a photograph manipulated digitally. Having focused mainly on painting and illustration throughout my life, I felt a greater connection to these works due to their “paintyness”. This juxtaposition of the “painted” background and sharp focused figures works to exaggerate the distance between the two. There is a sense of disharmony between person and space.
The compositional elements of the Chanel series communicates interestingly also. Bringing to mind Germanic landscape paintings where the greatness of nature is reflected through a small figure amongst imposing scenery, Sherman inverts this by placing the figure as the dominant focus, perhaps reflecting the ascendancy of fashion in the modern world. The figures were not photographed in their environment – the landscapes were images Sherman had taken in Iceland and Italy’s Isle of Capris – yet there is little attempt to blend them into their habitation. They appear to float in front of the landscape as if they are invaders rather than inhabitants in a strange environment, mockingly reminiscent of the fashion shoots today of women in elegant gowns and heels hiking fabulously through desert plains.