In their rich visual self-presentation the young women of today project meanings that are often contradictory, if intriguing. My focus in this work is on the way that young women deal with conflicting and contradictory forces, on how they use clothing to project self-assurance and strength, while at the same time not being shy about being feminine, soft and delicate. The development of new materials such as lycra, has meant that clothing can contain and enfold the body without restricting movement or distorting the contours. This has made the form of the body very visible on the publicly presented surface. The clothing is shaped by the body not the other way around.
But there is another side to this coin. By creating a tension between form and surface my sculpture holds on to the two-way push between the culturally constructed shell (the dress) and the biological female body. While the body is, strictly speaking, absent from my work, its force is very strongly implied. The dresses give definition and identity to these (absent) bodies. They create a social, gendered individual of a particular age and class.
Like the young women I see around me, these sculptures project an image of self-assurance, of a kind of strength which is divested of constraints. Strangely, this physical, athletic, good health and well-being is reminiscent of Classical Greek sculpture in which Alex Potts saw an ‘unselfconscious and unalienated oneness of being, a kind of unproblematic happy childhood of human subjectivity’ (Flesh and the Ideal). These days, of course, we see identity as constituted more by a response to lack and fragmentation, and we recognise it as a process rather than an entity. These ideas ricochet in and around my sculpture.
I choose the materials for my work to reflect and explore these ideas. While the stainless steel has the effect of removing the living signs of life (it is cold and hard), it does embody a kind of empty essence, a highly charged space in which the viewer’s fears and desires can be held, displaced and mediated.
Anna Eggert, November 2002