Tracy De Coninck

Autonomous Context  2022-2023

The series ANY BODY consists of different medium forms that pose the same question: How important is our physical body in showing who we are? The figures displayed in the series are stripped of their identity. They are simply what they are: inanimate objects. Put your existence on a scale, how many grams is your body worth to you?

Ever since I discovered my ability to draw, I would immerse myself in capturing the intricacies of the human body. My childhood fantasies found expression in the pages of my sketchbooks. As time went on, I developed a particular fascination with depicting pregnant individuals. During my teenage years, when I had the opportunity to attend human model classes, the prevalence of female models led me to be biased towards sketching the graceful contours of the female form.

In 2014, my perspective on drawing bodies took a transformative turn when I visited SMAK (Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst) in Ghent and encountered the drawings and sculptures of the Belgian artist, Berlinde De Bruyckere. I was captivated by her masterful use of materials and textures, falling in love with each figure she presented. This exhibition forever altered how I approached drawing bodies. I had always been taught to render models realistically, ensuring they possessed two arms, two legs, a belly, two breasts, two feet, two shoulders, and so on. However, after beholding De Bruyckere's figures, I vowed to never draw a person in their entirety again. I discovered a unique beauty in fragmented bodies, where every figure conveyed its narrative without the need for words. These bodies carried memories and histories, yet De Bruyckere reduced them to their essential elements. However, the figures in De Bruyckere's work often emanated a sense of loneliness.

Inspired by this transformative experience, I embarked on a series titled "ANY BODY." Within this collection, I unite bodies of diverse shapes and sizes, interlocking them like puzzle pieces. My aim is to present beauty upon bodies that lack recognizable features and identities. These figures challenge the notion that our body defines our identity. I implore viewers to perceive the body as nothing more than an object—a vessel capable of transporting us from one place to another, unburdened by preconceived notions of who that person may be.

Two prominent colors in my work, blue and red, each carrying multifaceted meanings. Blue, reminiscent of the sky and ocean, symbolizes our planet, our home, while red represents the earth beneath our feet. In elementary school, we learn that our hearts consist of two vital parts, with crucial veins often depicted in the colors red and blue. Our organs, blood, and tissues manifest in shades of red, while veins, bruises, and eye bags appear blue. For me, an alive body is vibrant redness—a pulsating, breathing entity. However, when life ceases, our fingernails, skin, and lips turn into a pale blue.

The body becomes an object of memories, unconsciously aware of the number of steps on a staircase, embodying physical reminders of falls and accidents. Our bodies possess astonishing capabilities: they can grow, shrink, expand, lose and gain parts. Yet, as individuals, we often remain oblivious to these intimate aspects. Others around us perceive our bodies more intimately than we do. Thus, can we truly claim to be our bodies? Can we ascribe a singular identity to this corporeal vessel?

I invite viewers to contemplate the notion that our bodies are nothing more than objects that transport us through life. It is important that we embrace our own bodies and extend that embrace to others. However, let us regard them as objects, devoid of the weight of predetermined meanings or assumptions.

The figures displayed in my sculpture can be seen as weights to put on a scale. If you were to put your existence on a scale, how many grams would your body be worth to you?