Introduction to Beauty of the Female Kind Galleries
Notes about my work in this section
by Mark Wilman
A genuine challenge and joy in my work has been where I've brought the female form into the wild landscapes of the Cyclades leading to the creation of the Beauty of the Female Kind galleries.
The results fascinate me because, I believe, they blend without either losing individuality or beauty: the woman's qualities are as welcome as the nature surrounding her, its elements assist, through colours and forms similar to her own or contrasting, in further complimenting her delicate femininity and natural place in the environment; her attitude, apparent through her movements, is clearly at ease with where she is.
Descriptions of a selection of the galleries
Autumnal fog took the place of a sunny summer morning creating the setting for 'Misty Morning, Misty Day'. The experience challenged us both at times since she simply disappeared inside immense clouds of heavy white contrasted by the surrounding terrain recently burned by a 3 day fire of immense proportions. What to make of such an experience?
The primitive stone circle, overgrown with vegetation until the conflagration, was intriguing. It showed evidence of human activity in this remote part of the island uncultivated, unvisited and rarely mentioned. Running to and fro inside my viewfinder's eye, the woman seemed challenged as if attempting escape. At times, she looked exhausted, confused, became immobilised, contemplative, lost but then defiant. This was fascinating, if not somewhat disturbing: the island was overrun by pirates throughout the middle-ages, in particular, and had suffered invasions since the beginnings of its history. What I'd witnessed was something that could very well have happened on numerous occasions over those 5,000 years, but with true aggressors involved and often with unfortunate consequences for their victims.
High Church was photographed under the midday sun in early September and sees the discovery by a solitary female of this small Byzantine church perched on the peak of the rocky hill on which sits the village of Ios. Strong contrasts in colour and natural textures make the encounter with her human form quite dynamic.
Pink Petals presents a setting of defined femininity by blending shapes, colours and textures around the centred female figure whose gaze forward away from the viewer encourages curiosity about her unseen identity.
Sikinos galleries, begun in 2016 and continued in 2017, were an opportunity to explore and express all we'd learned from work until this point. This photographically stimulating environment offered the freedom to explore its ancient forms, both natural and of human creation. We felt at home, ventured far and concluded with great enthusiasm. The galleries include: Circle of Stones; Elegance, Sikinos; Empty House of Sikinos; Episkopi of Sikinos; Intruder; Lost Lady of Sikinos, Neiko; Painted Stones; Sikinos Village Scene; Village Path; Village Trees, Sikinos
Sikinos Village Scene offers a glimpse of the peacefulness and cultivated beauty characteristic of the island. The woman, respectfully dressed in black, discovers the small community atmosphere.
Psathi Building, one of the single edition, password request galleries no longer on the site, sees the encounter between the female form and the roughness of this deserted structure. An evident sense of abandonment coupled with the blazing brightness of midday sunshine forcing its way through large glassless windows is enhanced by a background of ageing beige crumbling walls causing an atmosphere of intense isolation; to me, a fascinating setting in which to admire the beauty and graceful attributes of the woman's femininity. The gallery is intended for art collectors and can be seen only upon request.
Other titles include: Burnt Terraces, Field of Gold, Sheltering House, Small Bay of the Cyclades and Taking Shelter. Each is focused on a particular aspect of Cycladic life with its timeless culture.
N.B. Single edition, password request galleries were removed from the site so as to avoid any confusion to visitors.
Church at the Top is set on a high hill with superb views over the islands to the north and west of Ios, i.e. Iraklia, Naxos, Paros, Milos, Folegandros and Sikinos. Almost 500m above sea level with no road leading to it from the unpaved track far below, the decidedly rough vegetation on an almost vertical slope separating the two makes access complicated, so that reaching the church with model intact and unscratched was rather challenging. The choice of black and white brought out immediate details in both subjects, adding story but avoiding a less specific involvement, which was somewhat evident with the natural blues that tended to dominate the scene.
Tree of Manganari sees the interaction between the woman, solemnly dressed as tradition requires, and a Phoenician Juniper. Placed on a grave of piled rocks, perhaps there for centuries, the slow growing tree, quite possibly of equal age, with its two sturdy arms and extending branches whose foliage is seen solely in their uppermost areas, clings to life year after year. The gentle embrace they share is meaningful and touching.
Basic Steps by its title proposes progressive motion. Situated between two age-old, country terraces, the unusual flight of steps in stone takes the energetically refined lady upwards towards a healthy olive tree, with branches in abundance, and its many siblings near and far.
Visitor to Kambos is set close to Skarkos hill, one of the most important prehistoric sites in the Aegean and especially the Cyclades. The graceful physical expressions of the female are enhanced by the bareness of her surroundings; the simple stone windows of the long ago abandoned house counterbalance her extended arms, the aged broken tree causes comparison with her elegant dress and form.
A Walk in a Field This simple Cycladic setting has been undisturbed throughout history. The ancient Greeks and Romans used the land here for cultivation, as visitors will note from an intact Roman cistern found literally metres from where the lady stands in the first image.
Circle of Stones was photographed on the northern side of Sikinos overlooking Folegandros island. The uniqueness of the view and undisturbed surrounding quietness created an atmosphere of subtle beauty incomparable to any we'd encountered: the three natural elements, land, sea and sky, blend in dreamlike harmony, their golds and blues enhanced by the female form. We've since returned to the stone circle, but never seen it the way it was on this occasion when mid-September clouds caused the sun to mostly hide but astonish with its reappearing brilliance a few seconds at a time.
Single Path Olive trees in bright Cycladic sunlight on terraces extending far is the setting for this gallery. The lady in black follows the single path into the distance encouraging the viewer to further explore the scenery in detail.
Episkopi of Sikinos The setting is an ancient temple of Apollo, turned into a mausoleum for a high ranking Roman soldier in the 3rd century A.D. and later converted into a church set on a high plain in isolation in western Sikinos. The experience was unique, neither a house nor a soul in sight. The sensation was of time unchanged since its origins. The lady in black expresses her singularity comfortable in the surrounding environment.
N.B. The recent archaeological finding of a 1,800 year old noble woman's tomb with the name Νεικω engraved on it underneath Episkopi now indicates that the church was, in fact, built for her. My work 'Lost Lady of Sikinos, Neiko', photographed at the site two years prior to the discovery, is the portrayal of a solitary woman in classical Greek costume. Quite a coincidence. The director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Cyclades found the photos ''very interesting''.