Veteran Sydney LGBTQI scene photographer Rod Sparks (AKA Rod Sydney) is showcasing the male nude in his latest exhibition this week at the Abercrombie Window Gallery from tomorrow.

Rod told the Star Observer that his Colour Play solo show is “an exploration of masculinity and the male nude highlighted through the lens of a joyful application of colour.”

“Female nudes account for the vast majority of artworks, both historically and in the current era, where a huge number of images are available on the Internet.”

“As a gay man I challenge my own perceptions of what I see when I look at a male and female nude. In a world with a plethora of female nudes I rarely see them as artistic but more as exploitative, whereas my viewing of the male nude is generally from an artistic perspective.”

Rod said it had been a great experience working with and painting the bodies of the models in the show.

“Most models will usually have explored their own thoughts as to why they would get naked for an artist. Be it for financial reward, purely narcissistic reasons, to work with an artist they admire or to capture a record of a time in their life when they have felt comfortable in their skin,” Rod said.

“Whatever the reason, as an artist I try to honour the respect I receive with the best work I can do. When I offer a potential model a shoot, I have been surprised by the number of guys that will jump at the chance of participating in my Colour Play work. I explain to them that this work always involves being fully naked and I am pleased to find that for some, the layers of paint become a mask and they happily turn to the camera.”

“A Colour Play shoot usually involves a bit of a ‘get to know you’ chat first to ensure we are comfortable with each other and what is about to happen. The shoot can take up to three hours, so the model will be patiently standing for most of the period while I cover them with paint. It’s an intimate process, as I need to cover every part of their body. I’ve been honoured by the number of straight men who’ve allowed me to paint their penises – I usually ask them if I am the first man to touch it, and most times it’s only been me and their doctor.”

“Generally, a shoot has several phases. An initial painted design of two to three colours, which covers the whole body. We take a series of shots at this stage. The paint dries on a warm body quickly, so I need to work fast. The second phase involves applying fresh paint of a much more fluid consistency. This fresh glossy paint contrasts beautifully against the underlying, often cracking paint layers. The final stage of the shoot is where the model themselves gets to interact with the artwork by creating a beautiful mess, spreading the recently applied fresh paint all over their bodies.”

“My first explorations with body paint were with a very patient Daniel who posed for me several times while we tested out latex paints, traditional makeup artist body paints etc. In that period, I created my tribute artworks to the likes of Piet Mondrian and Keith Haring, two artists I admire greatly. I followed this work with the duo tone set, a base of two colours. The superhero’s designs after that were a lot of fun for both of us, allowing the model to play out their fantasies. The most recent works have been pure abstractions with large blocks of colour.”

The Colour Play photography exhibition is on at Abercrombie Window Gallery, 314 Abercrombie Street, Darlington, from 10–15 September 2019 with the opening night from 6pm, on September 10.

Rod has been a photographer around the Sydney scene since the early 90’s, including working for the Star Observer and as chief photographer for the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.

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