Review: Norman Rea Body-Architect Exhibition

Breaking the mould: uncomfortable, beautiful bodies 4 stars.

an image of the "vulval Madonnas"
(Image: Marti Stelling)

Piggybacking off the success of queer!, Body-Architect is Norman Rea’s latest exhibition.

Body-Architect is described by Norman Rea as “creating an environment that traces the human body in different physical spaces”.

The title of the exhibition is a nod to Lucy McRae whose work explores the human body in relation to future technology and evolution.

Upon entering the gallery, I was greeted with a glass of wine (and even offered a refill!)

Arriving within the first half hour of the launch meant that I got to take my time looking at the artwork before it got too crowded. The atmosphere benefited from live music and performances. There was an excellent vibe in the gallery and the people I spoke to told me that they had come after seeing previous exhibitions.

a series of wooden male faces
“A-Z of boyfriends” by Helen Dryden.
(Image: Marti Stelling)

There was a variety of artwork, ranging from sculptures to photography. Particular highlights for me were the “Vulval Madonna/ Anasyrma” by Lucy Churchill and the “A-Z of boyfriends” by Helen Dryden.

I was impressed by the breadth of work showcased, including some work that made me consider my own relationship with my body. One piece that I was struck by is “Lumps” by Saskia Bonner-Tymms. The piece is made from Styrofoam cladding, nylon, and human hair. The work is unsettling to look at, and yet I found myself returning to it for a closer look. The artist’s intention is to “re-imagine the body into new and peculiar structures”, which I think is captured well.

an abstract sculpture of a body
“Lumps” by Saskia Bonner-Tymms.
(Image: Marti Stelling)

Another piece that has stuck with me is “Fine, I’ll do it Myself ii” by Claye Bowler. This piece sculpts a post-top surgery chest. Bowler has recently spoken to Guardian about his experience having a solo exhibition at Leeds’s Henry Moore Institute, claiming he wants to “put trans people on the map in sculpture”.

Jesica Elizabeth Sadler’s work, “SMAllie”, documents chronic illness and the body through photographs and the Caribbean landscape: “burned out by the emotional and physical toll of a chronic illness, through my practice I seek ways to recharge and reconnect within the warm embrace of the Caribbean ecosystem”.

Body-Architect encourages viewers to understand the “unfair treatment of different bodies in the same spaces,” exploring social and political categories that have “negated or enhanced the perception of self within the body”.

The fourth exhibition of the academic year will showcase the exhibition until Friday 17th March, 2023.

A full interview with Norman Rea will be available to read in our next print edition, released Thursday 16th March.