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‘Body and Flesh’ by Sofia Laskari Review: A Refreshing Take on the Femal Nude

★★★★☆



'The Bite' by Sofia Laskari. Image by Faye Elder.


The female nude has long been inscribed in a history of patriarchy and misogyny in the art world. Until recently, gallery walls had been dominated by paintings of naked women created by men, the problem being that it perpetuated a viewing of the female body for and by the male gaze. Sofia Laskari reclaims this narrative in her first solo exhibition at Saatchi Gallery named ‘Body and Flesh’, after winning the Robert Walters UK New Artist Prize in 2023, in a thought-provoking exploration of reclaiming the female nude.  


Having graduated from the University of Arts London last year, Laskari is relatively new to the art gallery scene but has already been successful in the blossoming stages of her career. In this exhibition, nineteen paintings hang on the walls, all nudes of the female body, mostly attached to the walls by nails, given her use of unstretched canvases. This gives her work more of an intimate feeling; without the borders of a frame or being obstructed by glass, one can view her work in the most unfiltered sense. This choice pairs well with the raw intimacy of her paintings, which, as self-portraits are bold and vulnerable. 


Laskari’s work fashions a visual, illustrative language of biting, screaming, sadness, and anguish, evoking familiar yet unsettling portrayals of the human condition. In ‘The Bite’, we see her aggressively biting her arm, whereas ‘The Bathtub’ displays a sorrowful Laskari directly staring at the viewer. Laskari explores a wide range of emotions in this collection, using portraiture and the nude to forefront the naked body in a new light. She challenges us to view the naked female body in the same way that we view a clothed one, and she achieves this through the prominence of contorted facial expressions alongside a mellowed colour palette. Notably, all but one painting features her hair outlined in shades of brown rather than completely filled in, leaving white space that seemingly reflects this idea of displaying the typically unseen parts of the body to the public.



'The Bathtub' by Sofia Laskari. Image by Faye Elder.


Inspired by Jenny Saville, Laskari opines that her work utilises ‘triggering imagery that challenges the public perspective and surpasses the stereotypical representation of a female body’. In some pieces, there are hints of self-harm, and she captures faces distorted in anger or pain. In particular, ‘State 1’ reminded me of Francis Bacon’s ‘Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion’, the screaming, hunched over Laskari echoing Bacon’s haunting depictions of a screaming, human (?) being, with both evoking a harrowing sense of pain. All her works provoke a visceral emotional response, seemingly intended to illicit a sense of reflection on ourselves and our emotions, as Laskari certainly situates us within the ‘body and flesh’, displaying the intimate yet familiar corporeal body. 



'State 1' by Sofia Laskari. Image by Faye Elder.


Although a fascinating collection of paintings, the exhibition itself is contained in one room, meaning you get through it fairly quickly compared to the massive Burtynsky exhibition upstairs. The exhibition falls short in its lack of curatorial material. There were many pieces that were only accompanied by the title of the work rather than the typical short curatorial insights featured in text next to pieces, which made it difficult to comprehend and engage more closely with some of her work.  


Ultimately, ‘Body and Flesh’ is an insightful exploration of human emotion that powerfully reclaims autonomy over the female body. Laskari’s pieces challenge social perceptions of the naked female body, refashioning a once sexualised body into a vulnerable, empowering one.  


Body and Flesh in currently on display at Saatchi Gallery until 12th May. Admission is free and pre-booking tickets is not required.


 

Edited by Samuel Blackburn

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