IMG Taking Up Space Jude Smith Mel Potter

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Taking Up Space- Melanie Potter and Jude Smith challenge the male gaze

Students Melanie Potter and Jude Smith collaborated to co-curate the exhibition 'Taking Up Space.' The showcase unfolded at the PS1 space exhibition in November.
<p dir="ltr"><a href="">BA (Hons) Fine Art</a> student <a href="">Melanie Potter</a> and <a href="">BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing and Printmaking</a> student <a href="">Jude Smith</a> collaborated to curate ‘Taking Up Space’, an exhibition in Arts University Plymouth exploring issues of gender and power dynamics within society.</p> <p dir="ltr">Held within <a href="">Project Space 1</a> (PS1), one of Arts University Plymouth’s dynamic exhibition spaces available for student bookings, 'Taking Up Space' showcased nude artwork portraying both females and males, challenging the male gaze. The exhibition approached this subject with nuance, exhibiting gentleness and an acute awareness of the historical context of female nudes in art.<br /></p>
Exhib statement

Taking Up Space Exhibition Statement- Held at Project Space 1, Arts University Plymouth

<p dir="ltr">Melanie (Mel), is a contemporary multimedia artist originally from South Staffordshire. Currently in her fifth year at Arts University Plymouth, Mel delves into themes of gender, power, identity, and the female experience. Her practice is motivated by a quest to understand personal experiences as a woman, expanding to explore broader cultural, political, and social contexts. Embracing feminism as her lens, Melanie employs historically feminine materials and processes to depict the physical and emotional manifestations of navigating a patriarchal society. While she engages with various mediums, drawing remains the fundamental cornerstone of her artistic expression, serving as a cathartic process to explore her fascination with the body and its relationship to her own.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jude is a 21-year-old artist, originally from rural Carmarthenshire, South Wales. Jude draws inspiration from classical figurative art, spanning ancient Grecian sculpture to neo-classicism. Currently fascinated by depictions of the male body, she admires the inventive approaches of Michelangelo and El Greco. Describing her practice as art historically inspired yet grounded in contemporary principles, Jude aims to address problematic elements in European art history by expressing her own perspective, desires, and experiences in her work. As a woman artist, she confronts these challenges through candid depictions of her processes and materials.<br /></p>
IMG Taking Up Space Jude Smith Mel Potter

Jude Smith's (left) and Melanie Potter's (Right) work

<p>Mel reflected on her use of drawing in the exhibition, emphasising its poignant representation of women’s labour. The deliberate and painstaking nature of drawing mirrors the often slow and unrecognised foundations of women’s contributions to society. Mel aimed to convey a sense of worthiness to the women she drew, enabling the viewer to recognise the care, time, and effort dedicated to each illustration.</p>
"In our collaboration, Mel and I recognised a shared desire to recenter women's perspectives within the tradition of 'the nude.' While Mel empowers contemporary women through her beautiful drawings, I aim to redirect the gaze on the often-overlooked nude male in art history.”
Jude Smith
Jude Smith

By Jude Smith

<p dir="ltr">With their differences in styles in mind, Mel and Jude each showcased distinctive styles to the exhibition and contributed unique artistic perspectives. Mel's drawings exuded determination and purpose, while Jude’s work captivated with impactful use of colour and paint, creating a compelling contrast. Jude enjoyed employing mediums transparent about intricate processes, such as silk screen printing, which preserves the spontaneity of initial sketches. The mixed media approach in paintings added informality, counterbalancing classical references. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Despite our work being polar opposite in some respects,” Jude said, “Mel and I recognised early on in our collaboration for the exhibition that both of our practices share a desire to recenter our perspectives as women in the tradition of 'the nude.' Mel achieves this by focusing on contemporary women, empowering them with her uncompromisingly beautiful drawings. In contrast, I attempt to redirect the gaze of objectification and fetishism onto the nude male in art history, an aspect often overlooked in discussions about visual pleasure and the gratification of artists depicting nakedness.”<br /></p>
Mel Potter Portrait

By Melanie Potter

<p dir="ltr">The pairing of two mediums empowered the message, providing viewers with a comprehensive representation of what it truly means to take up space from multiple perspectives. The techniques employed by both artists added an aesthetic value, prompting viewers to appreciate the skill and effort involved in the artwork rather than simply focusing on the visual pleasure of the nude.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PS1 space played a significant role in the exhibition, enabling valuable critique and understanding from staff and students at Arts University Plymouth. As both artists approach the end of their degrees, the space provided insight into how their work may be interpreted and the nuances of curating and exhibiting a show. <br /></p>
Taking Up Space

Taking Up Space Exhibition Poster- Melanie Potter

<p dir="ltr">For students considering organising their exhibitions, both artists encourage using PS1. Mel gained valuable experience in preparing, installing, and curating an exhibition. Jude highlighted the significance of working with another artist, especially as two women wanting to literally take up space with their work. ‘Taking Up Space’ becomes poignant as Mel and Jude reclaim their position in a male-dominated lineage of artists inspired by and depicting the nude body. <br /></p>
Jude Smith

By Jude Smith

<p dir="ltr">Keep an eye out for the PS1 space during the next Open Day (click <a href="">here</a> to register!), where you can explore and experience new examples of work by talented Arts University Plymouth students. Join us and witness the creative excellence within our vibrant community!<br /></p>