‘Kabuki BAM!’, Tyler Moorehead, 2017
Drawings on paper. Coloured pencil, gold oil paste on vellum.
The artist explores identity, self-expression and conventions of beauty with portraits of fictional heroines that re-imagine the ancient Japanese art of Kabuki.
The work considers how future beauty aspirations might be rooted in transformation, through sensual and original self-design, rather than emulation of celebrated strangers.
Borrowing from the tradition of religious icons with their halos and applied gold, portraits are rendered informally, in coloured pencil and gold cream on paper, setting each subject against her own distinctly coloured halo.
In the art of Kabuki, the concentrated act of applying intricate make-up is designed to aid a human actor’s transformation into a superhuman or supernatural being onstage. Kabuki actors apply their own makeup in order to better understand their own faces and the character they portray.
The white paint and graphic lines are not to mask the face, but to highlight and accentuate its true character. Gold paint and dyed puffs of afro hair stand in as modern equivalencies to the face powder and graphics of Kabuki.
Reviving the 1970s 'afro puff' as a structural building block, the artist seeks to counter notions of natural afro hair as ‘ugly’, ‘political’ or ‘unfeminine’.
The work considers how a fresh aesthetic - striking, witty and dynamic - might look as a route to creative self-expression for women of any race, age, size and ability. It explores how the choices we make about our appearance are scrutinised, perceived and interpreted, and seeks to break the shackles of living through another’s gaze, depicting women with agency to determine their own form of unique and superhuman beauty, as individual works of art.