Hard Candy is an exhibition of the newest works by emerging artist Jade Yumang. Comprised of nine portraits, Hard Candy is a series of work that articulate a carnality that is at once bawdy and delicately sensual. Though explicit at first glance, Hard Candy delves beyond a young, raw homoeroticism and presents images that speak to the essence of physicality and questions stereotypical power dynamics and gender roles.
Each work in the series is a woodcut printed with black ink onto a delicately stretched surface of translucent silk fabric. Behind the printed surface sits affixed to the wall a jawbreaker that has been licked and sculpted with tender consideration. The printed image is intrinsically pornographic and lends itself to a discourse of power dynamics and sexual objectification and exploitation. The young men in each portrait are in a position associated with sexual “servicing”, a submissive, perhaps even female, role. It would be interpreted that this anonymous “receiver” is in the power position, masculine in his presentation and dominating the subject in a one-sided sexual encounter. It too could be interpreted as the artist’s own self-proclaimed position of power over the viewer and subject, dominating the exhibition space for his own gratification.
Yumang confronts this typical power association, that the sexual positioning of the portrait’s subjects equals exploitation and non-gratification, by introducing into the image an iconic piece of candy. By introducing the jawbreaker, Yumang challenges the initial interpretation of objectification and relieves the subject from his powerless position. The jawbreaker, which has physically been sculpted by the artist’s own mouth to reveal its layers, connotes an allured persistence rewarded by great satisfaction. The experience of a jawbreaker, with its foreboding name and appearance, is one of visceral sentimentality for many who can recall the commitment needed to conquer the candy, and the great reward that comes from each layer. This informs the explicit image and transforms it to a portrait of enduring sensuality and pleasure for the subject, stripping the brash initial interpretation of exploitation, revealing a sweet, seductive exchange and a more complex and considerate relationship. Having physically manipulated the candy himself, Yumang has also placed himself in the role with the portrayed subject, further hinting to the fact that he is the anonymous figure in the portrait while at the same time extinguishing his power in the exchange and revealing the reciprocation of what would stereotypically be interpreted as an unbalanced situation of power.
Hard Candy is a young artist’s investigation into his identity while presenting a body of work that challenges the viewer’s interpretation of power dynamics and stereotypes of traditional roles in sexual relationships.
Jade Yumang recently graduated with a BFA Honours in Visual Arts at the University of British Columbia. Working in drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture, Yumang’s work examines the continuous shift of sexual markers in queer culture. He was the recipient of the 2008 Malaspina Printmakers Student Scholarship and most recently had a solo show entitled The Birds & The Boys at the Plank Gallery in Vancouver.