Gill Button is a UK-based artist whose work deals with ideas of beauty and the modelling industry. She has collaborated with several companies including Gucci, but Button is most notable for her work with Dries Van Noten, a Belgian fashion designer.
All of Button’s work is permeated with the deep connective gaze of each model. In the case of, Molly, her distorted features only serve to accentuate her beauty – the unevenness of her eyes and ears, the dark circles surrounding her eyes, all add to her humanity.
It may be good to discuss the politics of using supermodels as…models for Button’s art. Larissa Pham in her writing for Gucci argues that Button “gives the model a sharp, intelligent gaze; she’s a woman who knows how to get what she wants, and she’s dressed to do it.” As much as I agree with Pham’s interpretation, I also struggle to see the difference to the way these models look in any other
magazine – is their gaze intelligent or vacant? Are these models just posing for the pleasure of their audience, a distant gaze designed to sell you their stylish lifestyle? Or is this something more than a magazine cover, are these women independent and strong feminist figures of modern life? Perhaps the answer lies in the words of James Freeman, “appropriated images become invested with feelings; portraits of strong identities are tempered with the fragility of fame. Gill uses the public eye as a frame through which to channel emotional identification so that her works become less about the subject, and more a question of the emotional makeup of the image, and of how the viewer gives them meaning.” So perhaps, as Freeman suggests, value lies in our interaction with these models and the exchange of emotional messages.
The emotion conveyed in the faces of Button’s models is a striking feature of her work and it is interesting how able she is to convey different emotions through subtle alterations of the face. If we consider figure 3, Marchesa Roux, I see a kind of subtle defiance. The strength of her stare, coupled with the illusion of her slightly leaning forward, to me creates a sense of strength and purposefulness. The softness of her mouth and eyebrows however, slightly counters this and thaws the overall composition.
In short, the many faces of Gill Button are truly inspired pieces of art – there is something invaluable about the exchange between artwork and viewer and that something is what (I believe) makes a a piece worthy of the term ‘high art’.
Featured Image – Speckle, Gill Button, ink.
All images courtesy of http://buttonfruit.com/
Check out her instagram @buttonfruit
Written by Emily Stokes