“Naked Drag, in the power of the pose”, is Cecilia Ulfsdotter Klementsson’s (b.1990) first solo show at Galleri Duerr since she became represented in September 2020 after her solo show in a container at Galleri Frihamnstorget in Frihamnen. Klementsson is currently in her first year of a Master’s at the Royal College of Art in London and her solo show “Naked Drag” is informed by her Master’s dissertation with the same title. The dissertation explores the power of the pose in the body stripped of its clothes in the media as well as the art world. In relation to Judith Butler’s call for drag to expose gender for what it is—a performance, Klementsson takes it one step further in a naked, fleshy and morbid drag.
Klementsson paints fleshy bodies reinterpreting nudes from fashion advertising by switching genders and extracting colours in the skin. Klementsson takes the nude to the naked in painted appropriations, and shifts these bodies from incorporeal to corporeal. Poses in the archives of 1990s and early 2000s fashion advertising feeds her work. This was an era when big fashion brands particularly pushed the boundaries of the nude, with Kate Moss in the forefront.
While Klementsson takes inspiration from the suggestive poses, she also twists them by having men pose like women, women pose like men, transwomen posing as ciswomen, or transmen posing as cismen – all to confuse gender to the point of ultimately becoming obsolete. Judith Butler called for drag to reach gender transgression through subversion, the parody and over-exaggeration expose gender to be a performance. When we are confronted with opposites, differences in male and female poses become all the more apparent with women seductive but passive, and men seductive but active.
Klementsson limits herself to four colours only, laying one colour on top of the other like a manual silk screen printing process. There is a paradox in the colours – they are beautiful yet uncanny as they reveal the fragility of the flesh. Klementsson deploys the mortality advertising avoids. Klementsson offers something odd while men pose like women in transparent iridescent skin, daring a viewer to be drawn to them despite their colourful flaws.
The poses pose the inevitable question: what happens when men are posed as women, and when women are posed as men? Klementsson is interested in asking the question and provoking thought rather than supplying an ultimate answer.
In leaving part of the painting unfinished, Klementsson reveals the skeleton of the painting—the underlying drawing. Klementsson deconstructs what a painting of skin is made of and also, metaphorically, what the skin is made of as layer by layer of pure colour is peeled away. While part of the painting is rendered to the point of hyperrealistic iridescent skin, other parts are stripped down to their bones. Except here there is no flesh and bones. Instead, there is a drawing that reminds us of a map rather than the traditional drawing of a nude. Klementsson circles where the shadows begin and end rather than filling the shadows in with regular hatching techniques, just like a map encircles the corruption of the landscape – Klementsson circle the corruption of the body and all its ‘flaws’.
Klementsson lived in Perth (AU) from 2011–2016 where she received a Bachelor of Fine Art at Curtin University in 2015. Klementsson has exhibited in Berlin, Leipzig, Perth, Stockholm, Gävle and Kettinge. Klementsson was a three-month artist-in-residence at Pilotenkueche in Leipzig from October to December 2019.