Jonathan Owen’s ‘Elegant Vandalism’ at Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016

Scottish artist Jonathan Owen with his untitled sculpture at Kochi-Muziris Biennale
( Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016)

Scottish artist Jonathan Owen’s unusual sculpture, called “Untitled,” is drawing a lot of attention at the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 in the port city. 

It’s a marble bust of a woman housed in one of the biennale venues, the Pepper House, in Fort Kochi. At first instance, it resembles the Renaissance busts of another age, another continent. But this woman’s bust does not have a face, instead there is a ball and a chain link.

Through this work — part of a series — the artist has tried to look at how women are made prisoners of the beauty myth. As Owen has made artistic interventions by carving into existing artworks and taking away their names and histories, the work is being referred to as an act of ‘elegant vandalism.’ But at the same time, Owen’s intervention to remove facial features is also intended to be a “rejuvenation” and “reactivation” of the work. 

Says Owen, “I do think about the work and time put into the sculptures by their creators. Some of the works are centuries old and I reflect on this before working to recreate them. Though the figures are disjointed, I like to think I have transformed them into intriguing puzzles from the biographical objects they were meant to be.” He adds, “I leave behind traces of what had been. While the details of the torso such as the cross were kept intact, the head was made barely distinguishable. The figure was thus de-humanised and transformed into an unsolvable puzzle,” Owen said.

— Jonathan Owen’s work is on view at Pepper House, Fort Kochi, as part of the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016, through March 29, 2017. For details, visit www.kochimuzirisbiennale.org

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