With three chapters behind us, we are delighted to publish our fourth chapter for our forthcoming book ‘Away with Words’, this will be published early next year.
Our ‘assignment’ for this chapter was ‘Beauty and Awe’ and we have selected Becky Menzies image from the selection we were sent, as we feel it epitomises this subject, for our fourth of twelve 1000 word essays, personally written by myself.
This non fiction work merges discursive scholarship with what may be construed as personal flights of fancy. That is not to say it will disappoint, moreover I have given myself a far and wide range to delve into photography, literature, art, theory, design and music as I tease out my own offbeat associations and at the same time astutely tune into each mobile photographers key tropes and artfully deconstruct their imagery. I thus begin:
What are we looking at?
We are looking at a scene in a women’s hairdressing salon. There are five women in this image. Three standing and two seated. The woman standing in the background, a hairdresser, might it seems be adding hair colour to the female customer seated, with her plastic gloved hands. She is also wearing an apron to protect her own clothes from splashes of hair treatment. Her own hair is long and loose and it is possible to view trousers beneath her apron and she wears sandals on her feet. Her seated customer is not wholly visible in this scene.
The hairdresser in the foreground, is at the cutting and styling stage of her service to her seated customer. Her right arm is raised and she looks to be holding a pair of scissors in her hand. This hairdresser also has long hair and wears it in a loose style. She is wearing a dark long sleeved top or jumper with matching coloured trousers, we cannot see her feet in this scene. The customer she is servicing is covered with a dark salon apron but it appears she is wearing brighter colours beneath. One foot is visible, trousered and she is also wearing sandals. Both customers are facing large full length, large framed wooden mirrors and in the foreground mirror we can view the partial reflection of another hairdresser opposite, attending to her customers hair. The background mirror reflects a bright red blouse hanging on a peg. There is a small table in between both mirrors and upon this are various hairdressing essentials, comb, treatment, brushes.
The room itself initially appears to be long and narrow but this could just be the cropping of the scene, as we know there is a hairdresser working opposite the two clearly visible ones in this image. There are strong, warm lights adding to an atmosphere of serenity. A roof window allows additionally sunlight to pour through into the room below. The entrance is in sight and modelled with glass doors and decorative green planting. The wall to the left as you enter the salon is painted with a colourful scene. It is not entirely clear to depict but I fancy it is a map or location painting, complete with tall date palms and a lake of lush warm water.
How can the image be interpreted?
Menzies digital painting, shows two clients and three hairdressers working closely together, simultaneously in motion. We can assume that the country/location they are in is a warm one, the sandals that are being worn, give us that clue but also the colours of the painting are very bright, dominant colours. Colours that we associate with warm locations. I have counted thirty eight differing colours within this painting, thirty eight is a significant number. According to affinity numerology, the number thirty eight is about relationships as well as co-existence and it seems apt to find it within this scene. There’s a psychology within hairdressing salons and not least with hairdressers themselves that puts them into the fifth most trusted professions. Clients visiting hairdressers do so for multiple reasons, not just to have their hair cut, restyled or coloured. Sometimes clients visit after a change in life circumstance and require a new look or subtle changes in order to help them to grow in confidence. In the safety of the hairdressers chair, a client receives undivided attention, for up to three hours, that’s far more than they would receive in a standard therapy session. Clients are loyal to their hairdressers, some confide their greatest secrets.
Digital painting of photography is an interesting art. With purely photographic images we are filled with the notion of what we see, is what is there. In paintings, they are not caused by what they depict. We rely on the painter of the existence of things within the image, as interpretation.
Menzies painting is inviolable, finding in its every poise, tangled thoughts and new conduits to her unconscious. With phantasmagoric compositions, these diligent, women are recast in mise-en-scènes, reclining in customer chairs, in poses of analysands more than odalisques.
Menzies imbues her scenes with bold, rich and vibrant colours, with layers of underpainting, keeping colours and figures firmly in focus. Her cast of characters inhabit a separatist world in which these women’s spaces are sites of fable-like narratives dense with symbolic, if enigmatic, meaning. The psychology of a women’s hair salon is all the more a fitting scene, with visible long, thick hair, – an art-historical fetish and one that Menzies embellishes. Her painting picks apart the visual construction of this trope, prodding viewers to contemplate their own scopic pleasures.
The camera lens in combination, in this instance, with digital painting —whether foretelling the selfie in the privacy of one’s own home or capturing the spirit of a social, if secretive, milieu of fellow dissidents—bears witness.
This image of Menzies’, is a fitting expression of her own enigmatic magnetism and singular brilliance.
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