8 July - Sunday 31 July
In A Gallery – CAMO – paintings by Paul Rayner and Michael Haggie
Michael's works in the exhibition
Michael Haggie - CAMO : Secrecy and Desire
In this series I am disguising the male nude with an invented camouflage of marks and ciphers. Each man is situated in a liminal and shallow space behind a screen of painted and coloured signs. Full access to reading the figure is both denied yet teased out by the mark making.
The nude men each occupy a safe exclusion zone with their camouflage. Total legibility is denied as is their eligibility to be desired. John Berger's Ways of Seeing enters here, where these men are safe from our gaze. Yet ironically, a potentially greater Eros zone exists within this cipher screen.
The various camouflage patterns call to mind a range of patterns: kiss x’s, plus signs, the Christian cross, as well as a carved confessional screen behind which secrets and sexuality are hinted at for the viewer to enter or stay safely at arm's length. The male nudes are painted viscerally before the distance of the camo screen is applied. The secrecy of overtly queer desire is hinted at and yet kept aloof.
I intend these works to be queer art from both the signs and allusions to form. The male nudes reference the works of openly gay photographers such as George Platt Lynes and George Daniell, as well as earlier work by Cezanne. This referential modelling allows me to work in a continued artistic conversation across time with other queer artists, despite the necessary camouflage they might have applied to their own work (and life) in the early-mid twentieth century.
Although these nudes are camouflaged behind mark and cipher, these patterns aren't intended to sanitise queerness or queer expression. The camouflage offers a degree of self-protection, as well as a sense of ‘being seen’ only by those who understand how to look beneath the surface. This practice of seeing and being seen offers the viewer to step into queerness and inhabit two worlds simultaneously: a queer mirror world hidden behind the distance of camo.
Michael Haggie, Vee Blackwood, 2022