Isthar, goddess of war and love
The Naked series considers the rise and fall of worlds that have been built upon the inequalities forced onto perceptions of gender. Attending life drawing sessions organised by the association of East London Strippers Collective, Benten Barouh was confronted by the pride of the models in their bodies and in their skills as dancers and performs, countering society’s notions of women’s agency over their bodies and sexualization. This transformative realisation triggered in Benten Barouh a flood of memories surrounding her childhood and upbringing in Japan, where women were encouraged to be beautiful and silent. The works in this series were born from the anger Benten Barouh felt when faced with the stark recognition of how social structures through the ages have worked to deny women full control over their identities, bodies, and sensuality.
The artworks in this series intertwine aspects of calligraphy with paintings of women, many of which invert the gaze that societies have perpetuated. They dare the audience to behold their power and be the object rather than the objectifier. Collage brings a further dynamism to the works, with fabrics and images cut from fashion magazines incorporating another dimension of the societal constructions of women into the conversation. The works evoke the dance between seduction and rebellion, the tumbles between bodies, and the amorphous war between the oppressor and the oppressed, all with humour playing at the edges.