Caged Venus - Karen Byrne

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London View Inspiration Details

Artist Statement

Karen Byrne

How do we look at beautiful bodies? What does it mean to appreciation the literal objectification of the human form? How does it make us feel as individuals? The V&A is full of received ideas of beauty and I found Philip Eglin's Venus at Amour very lovely to look at and draw. My own drawing studies drew my attention to the round bottom and stylized form. I noticed the parallels in both classical and contemporary culture - from the Venus de Milo to Kim Kardashian. I grew uncomfortable or confused by my liking for this imagery. Can I still love this beautiful artwork whilst it sends echoes of the constraints a woman faces when defined by her physicality? What is the role of the artist and the museum in creating this dialogue around the human body?

This was my starting point for a number of pieces exploring the female form and how we, women, are often reduced to our physical features. In 'Caged Venus' I sought to express my disquiet and even rage through the use of bloody colour and distorted form, through random weave to express the trapped constraints and pain of seeking to conform to beauty ideals.

The piece is made from hand-painted sublimation print on polyester satin, cut and stitched with rayon threads onto a form I initially created. The mental 'cage' is created from ink dyed paper yarn using random weave basketry techniques. I developed the sublimation dying and basketry at workshops at my City Lit Advanced Textiles course. The flexibility of the course and quality of the tutor feedback has enabled me to develop both my skills and, most satisfyingly, creatively.

Caged Venus - Karen Byrne

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inspiration details:

Venus et Amour

Figure group



Philip Eglin

Earthenware, covered with a white slip and an uneven honey coloured glaze, Hand built from wrapped-round slabs

V&A collection reference number(s):

Exhibition Guide

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