Artist Muse - The Study Gallery of Modern Art - Poole

Artist Muse is a rumination on what it means to be an artist as a muse and the muse of an artist.

Using the conceptual 'template' of a pornographic image, Sarah Lucas poses provocatively in "Self-Portrait with Fried Eggs" (1999). Somehow Lucas's muse always lies elsewhere, whether with Magritte or James Dean, this is what it feels like to be a woman artist in the twenty-first century. It also pre-empts ladette culture, and what it feels like to be a young woman today.

Meanwhile Cindy Sherman uses herself as the basis for the characters she invents. She's been doing this for over twenty years now, and the images still fascinate. They inspire the viewer to build a story around the character, in this case a young, pregnant woman with very long fingernails.

Richard Billingham shows two portraits, one of each of his parents. They give a vivid insight into the background influences on his work. You have to be quite caring to be an artist and it shows in this work, which is partially about alcoholism. His father is captured falling over, in mid-fall.

Jake and Dinos Chapman contribute a 'society portrait' of a woman called Andrea Rose. This image contrasts with Madame Yevonde's photographs of "Mrs Edward Meyer as Medusa" (1935) and "Mrs Donald Ross as Europa" (1935). The Chapman brother's painting is clever but horrible in comparison. This is quite helpful though as there is a bit of confusion these days with media and art. Hence the inclusion of photographs by John Paul Pietrus of Coleen Mcloughlin who is "the latest media "muse" in a long line of manufactured celebrities." The photographs (2006) are tableaux of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and Botticelli's "Birth of Venus". They appeared in The Guardian Weekend magazine in February 2007. Quite ghastly.

These images are contrasted with Melanie Manchot's "Mrs Manchot, Arms Overhead" (1986), a nude portrait of Manchot's mother. There is the realization that media notions of beauty are not the same as Art values. It's a great picture.

Also great are the Video Works 1970-1999 by William Wegman. His muse is a young man who talks about things like nearly being eaten by a shark and, in another take wearing shaving cream, he talks about being born with a tiny mouth, so that when his grandfather died when he was six he inherited his by transplant. This meant that he had to start shaving at the age of six.

There's some interesting painting by Les Rogers, in a sequence called "The Lindsey Series" (2005). These portraits are of a "contemporary teenager - Lindsey." The artist/model relationship is described as "very modern" using mobile phones and the internet to communicate. They didn't meet until after the works were made.

Altogether a thought provoking exhibition which made me nostalgic for the muses I have known.

Aura 2/12/07

Artist Muse runs until 19th January 2008