Hazmat Heads: It’s All About The Others

Multiple dimension composite work 9, 12, 15, 16, 20, 25  charcoal, clear size, oil paint, and gesso on canvas [41x36cm] 2019

It’s All About The Others is a series of Hazmat Heads that suggest the adoption of masking as protest, political strategy, safety or representational control in the digital circulation of images. The images are recognisable as gas masks, drawing on historical iconography, in the way that Philip Guston did with his Klansmen, referring to the collective memory of historical threat to articulate its resonance in the here and now. The masks evoke collective fears of biological or nuclear warfare while making reference to the contemporary hazard of air quality. The images are unsettling, confrontational and even threatening. Masks suggest danger and protection but the question is from what? In the Hazmat series, the layers oscillate; the drawn head is sealed into raw canvas, the mask is on the surface but gesso, traditionally applied first, forms the final layer. The ground is brought forward to interrupt the logical sequence and therefore questions where the danger actually lies. What is inside or outside of the protective mask.

Laura Hudson, Hazmat Heads from the series, It’s All About The Others, 2019 

In Creaturely Cobra (1), Hal Foster draws on Georges Bataille to support his assertion that the rejection of the human face can be traced back to the pictorial caves when ‘early man disguised humanity at the very moment he claimed it’ (2). Bataille and Foster both suggest that the ‘rejection of our face’ is fundamental to us. (1) Foster’s idea of masking as a response to political crisis aligns with my own response to the political crisis of our times and the malevolent digital overloading that is affecting society. In my work, masks headgear, helmets and goggles feature as augmentations to human faces.

Marginalised communities have reason to fear an increasingly right-wing mainstream, while the more general crisis of the Anthropocene suggests that what we might all fear is ourselves. 

(1) Foster, Hal (2012) Creaturely Cobra October, Vol. 141, Asger Jorn (summer 2012). pp 4-21

(2) Bataille, George (2005) The Cradle of Humanity: Prehistoric Art and Culture, Zone Books p.55