Today 'Bodies' by Nadav Kander arrived in the post so I sat down to spend some time with it. 'Bodies' is beautifully made, reassuringly dense, and had an immediate quieting influence on me.
The first thing I noticed, after the single calligraphic brush stroke on the front cover, is the deep red inlay. Amid a wellspring of black and grey the red is very potent and gave the palette of my eye a cleansing transition from looking at things in the everyday world to now contemplating Nadav's work.
The red reminded me of this by Dogen Zenji "To study the Way with the body means to study the Way with your own body. It is the study of the Way using this lump of red flesh. The body comes forth from the study of the Way. Everything which comes forth from the study of the Way is the true human body."
As I looked through the work I slowed down, naturally breathed a bit more deeply and felt a contented heaviness. I also felt slightly uncomfortable.
Vulnerable, yet often self-contained, Nadav's nudes begin being held by a reassuring blackness. A blackness that is not a void or meaningless blank, but the blackness of deep sleep, the inviting blackness that holds the stars.
Many nudes are facing away from us, the viewer, and Nadav, the photographer, and we are given permission to be with them both as people and as forms. The physical mass of the models is palpable and grounding for me, all through the work I feel anchored and settled, even amidst the sometimes inward or awkward spiralling of some of the poses.
The nudes are covered in a white marble dust, which frees them from photographic literalness. Edward Weston's study of a pepper can be seen in the nudes. Lucian Freud's fleshiness can be seen in the nudes. Francis Bacon's atmospheric intensity can be seen in the nudes. References to religious art can be seen in the nudes.
At times towards the end of the work the nudes remind me of ash-covered Hindu Saddhus and what they point towards in the human condition. Existential pain, limitation, transience and confusion are there, as well as spiritual serenity, power, potency and moments outside of time.
For me as someone, who picked up their first book on meditation at the age of 13 and who works to express something of meaning with the medium of photography, this is an important book and one I will return to often as a haven and a challenge.
Look at the shadow. Don't turn away.
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