Portraits of women and men in the 20th and 21st Century
(work in progress)
“Before they become a work of art, Diana Lui’s nudes are images of a body, but they are also the reflection of the social environment the model belongs to as well as of the history that has formed its identity to the point that the mere image of the nude is so strong, a name associated with it becomes unnecessary.
We are not faced with the concept of identity in the way a government office would define it: passport size photograph, name, age, citizenship. The nude body that is revealed here, in part of whole, often has a complex history that cannot be reduced to mere informational data, rather by a few “biographical themes” or “biographèmes”– a term used by Roland Barthes – that help put together a story.
We understand quickly that Diana Lui has selected people floating in a certain transit, in travels, in encounters, the type of people who live a roving life and only land momentarily at the end of long and curious journeys. Do these young women simply undress physically or through their discourse? Although it speaks highly of the art of the nude, laying bare one’s body does not disclose much in terms of identity, nor do the few excerpts of biographical notes.
The real source of identity is in the eyes, their expression, their look that Diana Lui’s artistic treatment of the image and quality of the portrait lead us to. The look can be tense like a dart ready to strike, but also be a shield to protect the thoughts and sensibility of a defenseless model left there in a delicate yet sensual state of abandonment. Nature’s diversity in body shapes and forms are clearly visible in the flesh. Yet, not one body resembles another, even if a certain and fragile grace created by the art of photography, links them together. The eyes however all speak to us, they look at us to reveal a thought or an emotion. But those darts and shields are in fact a decoy; they’re not there to frighten us away but on the contrary they pull us into an interior world.
Around a corner suddenly appears the Venus of Boticelli, her hair slightly floating in the wind, her swaying walk so reminiscent of renaissance and Baroque figures, but the expression in her eyes is so raw it brings us back to the reality of art photography, to the reality of the person standing there in front of us, to the face of the Other whereupon rest the potential tenderness and violence of all human beings.
- Anne Biroleau, Curator, 21st Century Photography Department, Bibliothèque Nationale de France