'The Embodied Soul Passes Through Girlhood to Death', an interpretation by Vik Gill

The Embodied Soul Passes Through Girlhood to Death
Ouija board sessions around the kitchen table at night, and the dreams that followed, were the inspiration for this multiple self-portrait by The Girls - Andrea Blood and Zoe Sinclair.

The work depicts the artists in their previous lives, Sinclair as an aristocrat and Blood as a pauper; and portrays their reincarnation into their current lives, using a montage of childhood and contemporary photographs.

The artists’ childhood home of Poole, a town on England’s south coast which boasts a large natural harbour, provides a stunning backdrop. The cyclical element of the piece is underscored by a temporal shift between dusk and dawn, and further emphasised by a strategically-placed hourglass, which represents both the transience of time, and the fragility of life.

Throughout the piece, the artists have provided clues as to the demise of both women from their prior incarnations. Blood’s pauper flashes the viewer a suggestive smile, and displays a seductively confident demeanour along with her ample assets. Is Blood’s pauper supporting herself and her infant through employment in the world’s oldest profession? Further suggesting either promiscuity or prostitution, the transformation of Blood’s tartish pauper from seductive trollop to ravaged hag includes a lewd suggestion of venereal discomfort. Did she meet her untimely and unpleasant end through syphilis?

Faring no better, Sinclair’s aristocrat is portrayed with the fashionably white complexion regarded as ideal for women of her class background until the early twentieth century. To achieve this look, white lead called ceruse, was used as make-up. Ceruse had some unpleasant cosmetic side effects such as greying and cracking, and had a depilatory effect, causing the eyebrows to fall off, permanently. Women replaced these with fake ones made of mouse fur, and in so doing Sinclair’s aristocrat displays the youthful maiden-like and privileged beauty that is captured in the first image. The loss of this beauty is markedly evident in the second image portraying a withered old woman. Ceruse, unfortunately, was absorbed by the skin and prolonged use resulted in lead poisoning. Was this the fate of Sinclair’s aristocrat?

Reborn in modern times, Blood and Sinclair’s souls come together again in childhood, reflecting an enduring bond, and altogether happier times. The artists’ life lines are tied with a bow in the centre of the piece, illustrating their strong bond as collaborative artists, The Girls’ shared optimism for the future, and hinting at an inter-connectivity of humanity extending beyond the physical world into the metaphysical realm.

© Vik Gill