In May, Hay Hill Gallery is proud to present the debut gallery exhibition of Jamie McCartney’s work, The Great Wall of Vagina. Challenging and visually striking, this monumental wall sculpture began attracting global interest even prior to its completion. SKIN DEEP also features the world premiere of McCartney’s latest body of work, Physical Photography, which takes a similar approach to honestly depicting the human form and experience. _“This is what we are really like.” _(McCartney)

McCartney’s works often draw on the powerful tools of spectacle and humour ‒ his whimsical titles are not easily forgotten. The “Great Wall of Vagina” grabs the attention, the scale of it then astonishes and draws us in and then before we know it we’ve been educated us as to how women really look.

Similarly in the Physical Photography series McCartney gives us a new way of looking at the body. SKIN DEEP focuses in on notions of beauty, our personal and societal experience of it and obsession with it, putting us as well as his models under the microscope. The show also features other sculptural works which range from pure aesthetic to pure whimsy, demonstrating the huge range of this dedicated and cerebral British talent as he tackles the most persistent and prevalent subject in art.

The Great Wall of Vagina is of great socio-political importance and is a highly provocative response to the exponential rise in cosmetic labial surgeries. By confronting the viewer and revealing the diversity of female genital appearance, McCartney opposes any notion of a singularly “perfect” aesthetic, thereby forcing society to rethink its relationship with the vulva. Comprising 400 plaster casts of women’s genitals arranged in ten panels, the polyptych spans nine meters in length.

McCartney succeeded in reaching a broad demographic, with volunteers coming from all walks of life and ranging from 18 to 76 years of age. Casts of mothers and daughters, identical twins, transgendered men and women all feature; so too do those of a pre and post-natal woman, as well as, rather provocatively, a woman before and after labiaplasty. In creating this work, McCartney set out to alleviate the needless anxiety that is driving so many women to contemplate surgery. His accompanying book includes many moving testimonies of women who took part: these accounts speak of individual empowerment and a sense of liberation that is echoed by those who experience his work.

In SKIN DEEP McCartney demonstrates his career-long commitment to an experimental approach to art. Alongside the vagina wall is the Physical Photography series, pioneering a new method of photography and fashioning a highly innovative series of images. Concentrating again on the human form, he continues to depict and celebrate people in their natural state without recourse to “the scourge of image manipulation” (McCartney). By pushing a document scanner beyond the purpose for which it was intended, McCartney uses his new-found “digital camera” to create scanned images of the body which have both a stark reality and a particular and beautiful aesthetic. The assembly of many individual scans to achieve whole-body images results in an abstraction of the human form by its appearance from slightly differing angles at the same time. This the artist refers to as Neo-Cubism. Although his continual experimentation places him at the forefront of modernity, McCartney’s palette deliberately evokes Old Master painting with a soft focus and a chiaroscuro modelling of flesh.

McCartney is decidedly painterly in his approach, taking photography in its literal sense of painting with light. An emphatically collaborative and intimate process, McCartney redefines the relationship and the distance between the photographer, equipment and model, and the resulting images are imbued with a strong sense of personality.

Jamie McCartney is a British sculptor who lives and works in Brighton. He trained at Hartford Art School (USA), graduating in 1991. Initially McCartney ran his own forge, making abstract animal sculptures in steel. He subsequently moved into sculpture, prop making and special effects in the film industry, working on feature films such as Blackhawk Down, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Casino Royale. Both his degree in Experimental Studio Art and film industry experience continue to inform his assemblage-style work, as he adopts materials and techniques including: animal hides, taxidermy, human teeth as well as casts and now scans of human bodies. Already well-established, McCartney has exhibited in many individual and group shows, winning his second public award for his pedal-powered road car Car-Bon Miles at the UK’s first Art Car Parade. For this self-confessed enfant terrible driven by experimentation, no subject is too controversial, nor any process off limits. It is little wonder that he is gathering an international following.

Hay Hill Gallery , located on Cork Street, represents a number of internationally recognised contemporary artists. Our consultants will advise on all matters pertaining to specific interests. Whether starting a collection, building on an existing collection or looking for that one important piece Hay Hill Gallery offers a specialist service to fulfil client requirements.