by Elena Buga
Writer, Singer, and Art Model
I would like to introduce you to a creative individual who allows his models to express freely, my friend, an artist and visionary, photographer Art Ward. He generously gave an interview to tell us what he does and why he does it.
All photographs are of Art Model Elena Buga and were shot in North Antrim, Northern Ireland.
EB : First, tell me about your roots and where you are based.
AW : My roots lie in North Antrim, which is in Northern Ireland. My formative years were spent here, and those experiences gave me a deep affinity for the natural landscape, something that has stayed with me all my life.
I first got into photography when I was 11, and later music and art. The only thing I was good at in school was art, so I left school at 15 with no qualifications. I moved to London and worked for a graphic company that later harnessed my creative abilities.
Two years later I did my first commercial work for Guinness.
EB : As a creative outlet you express yourself through photography. Was this your first option ? Or do you express yourself in other mediums ?
AW : No, it was my first option. Throughout my life I have expressed myself through various arts. I compose, play and record music, and occasionally do some creative writing.
EB : Who are the artists that influence you most in your work, and why do you find their work so remarkable ?
AW : I cannot narrow it down to a few artists as I appreciate the work of so many. The area of art that attracts me most and which I find most inspiring is sculpture, predominantly classical. It leaves me breathless contemplating how human hands can make such expressive and beautiful visions from bronze and stone.
I recently visited the Musee Rodin again to refresh myself with his work. I love the sensuality he achieved in some of his work. I also revisited the Louvre sculptural collection, work that always leaves me in awe...
I would draw a lot of influence from looking at these masters and how they make the body show through cloth - every muscle, shape, and form defined...and how they captured pure expression...in marble... it just blows me away.
I love looking at Art in general, so you will probably see echoes of numerous artists in my visuals.
EB : You mention Rodin. Can you tell me a few pieces of your work that includes his style ?
AW : It's more about the feeling that comes from the work of Rodin, in particular, the white stone work. I love the sensuality in "La Cathedrale." I don't think any of my work comes anywhere near that place of expression, but I hope one day it will.
The "Water Child" we produced were inspired by Rodin's "La Danaide."
EB : You see photography as a form of art, as I discovered through our wonderful work. Even though you express in all styles in your commercial photography, your heart is always in creative work. Why ?
AW : Photography has always been foremost because it is the area I have managed to make a living from commercially. Some of this work I would not regard as art at all; it's a form of recording and presenting visuals to a client who, in most cases, has little understanding of the medium as an art form.
"Child of Lir"
Although I apply creative thought to this work, it tends to be more proscriptive and client oriented. If a client wants a green apple on a white plate, then you have a predestined outcome to achieve. This never happens in my personal creative work, as I never know the outcome until it arrives visually through the lens, on my computer, or in a mixed media screen creation. Creative work is really about discovery and expression...it is a place where I am completely free to explore, capture, and create without constraints.
EB : How did you undertake art nude and develop the subject in a long term collaboration ?
AW : To be truthful, a friend of mine who does not mince his words told me, "Art! You should put living things in your landscape. They're beautiful to look at and you really capture the essence of landscape, but they're empty. You should try bringing a touch of humanity to them."
I knew what he was saying, having reached a point where I was feeling a need inside for something new and challenging, but I did not know what. So that started me thinking. I had drawn and painted nudes and created graphics of the human form in the past - but never really photographed art nude.
I did not even know if I could do it. The extreme perceptions and negative representations of art nude in the world around me was dissuading.
I was already working occasionally with models in portraiture and casual style to hone my skills for commercial needs, and it was through a booking I met you, Elena.
When we connected creatively and became good friends, I felt it was a predestined event in my life. After six months I feel very good about my art nude work and excited because I know it can only get better and better as I gain more experience. It has also reconnected me to my passion for montage, work that takes photography into another area.
I do have sensitivity in my work, and I love what I am doing creatively. Working with one person long term suits my style of work, and we connect creatively which inspires and motivates us. We also have a vision and perception of art nude in the sense of what we feel is and is not art nude. This reflects strongly in our work together.
My form of shooting is free flowing and a little esoteric. Although I direct in my commercial work, I don't like doing so in my personal work where I prefer to feel what is happening around me and react and capture in that flow, allowing whatever energy or influences that are there in the landscape, studio, or between us to be part of the flow that leads to the image.
EB : What is your perception of art nude ? Why do you think there are so many misguided perceptions about this controversial subject ?
AW : My conception of art nude is the expression of beauty through the human form that encapsulates elegance, grace, sensuality, eroticism, drama, and form. Ultimately it's the aesthetics of the visual and what it conveys to the viewer that matters.
I strive to capture something beyond what I see - what I feel in my heart and spirit.
Why are there so many misguided perceptions about art nude ? I suppose one reason is the exploitation of the female form. The world is deluged with images that degrade rather than celebrate the form and this becomes the first encounter of many with nudity. They have to sift through the chaff to find the pure seeds of art nude. What really bugs is me is a person who actually self proclaims themselves as an erotic and art nude artist with imagery that is totally degrading to the female form.
EB : The grandeur and majesty of the landscape translates into your fine art nude visuals. How do you affiliate these in your work ?
AW : I have always had a deep affinity to the coastal landscape of North Antrim. The power and spirit ingrained here is ancient and the history palatable in the standing stones, dolmens, ruins, and artifacts scattered across this landscape. I gained a degree in geology and geomorphology as a mature student, so when I look on a landscape, I see it from many perspectives - ranging from the pure academic through to the magic, myths, and legends that connect to it along with the natural spirit of place that exists.
I find this inspires me and is expressed through my work like unwritten stories.
EB : Artistic nude is about artistic expression at its best. Can you tell me the difference between art nude and artistic nude ?
AW : As a novice in art nude work, I have always been a bit confused by the definition and styles of art nude, so I will probably be corrected on this one. I define art nude as the pure natural body form with grace, elegance, and spirit - much like the classical sculptures but revisited in a contemporary format. It is an emotionally neutral place to view and appreciate the beauty, rhythm, and shape of the human form.
Artistic nude I would see as more theatrical and dramatic, the sensuality pronounced with accessories such as jewelry, cloth, and makeup. It's a wider stage to perform upon and capture.
EB : Erotic art as an erotic concept of the nude genre is misunderstood just as art nude is sometimes misunderstood.
"Glen of Fertility"
AW : I personally think sensuality and eroticism can be expressed in many ways. It does not have to be exposure of the human reproductive areas.... Two fingers touching in space can make a truly sensual and erotic image, depending on the context and creator. Rodin, for example, demonstrated sensuality through "La Cathedrale."
I often get worried about mentioning the word eroticism because of the diverse and sometimes degrading visuals that bear the title, but I love eroticism. It's all in the interpretation. For me, it's a beautiful, pure, sensual feeling. It's not explicit but it's more powerful because it touches the spirit and emotion in a deeper sense whereas explicit is always superficial.
"The Spirit of Dunlois" has sensuality, drama, and eroticism within it, but what is visually shown ?
EB : Could you tell us some advice for the beginner in art nude and nude genre work ?
AW : Be clear about your vision of art nude as the conceptions of art nude can really be quite bizarre and varied. I would suggest trying a workshop with an experienced art nude model or photographer and seek out and follow sites like Univers d'Artistes where you get a refined, educated, and open view of art nude.
There are many challenging barriers to overcome on the path, so make sure you work with someone who is experienced in art nude.