Mode 2: Not For The Weak
The following images are not for the easily offended. Naked women are about to flood your screen and you need to decide right now if you can handle it. These aren’t size 0 models photoshopped to near non-existence. What you’re about to experience is Mode 2′s vision of women (among other topics, as well). It’s a vision that’s pretty accurate.
Mode 2 was born in Mauritius, an island off of the southeastern coast of Africa (it’s one of the smaller islands to the east of Madagascar). He grew up in London and was interested in comics and the game “Dungeons & Dragons.” He remembers taking up drawing at an early age, but was particularly influenced by “Welcome Back Kotter,” a TV show about a teacher who instructs a group of uncontrollable kids as he returns to his high school alma mater.
Mode 2 made his mark by spending time in Covent Garden, a place where the hip-hop ’80s scene grew in London. Beginning with a spray can, Mode 2 quickly made a name for himself and by 1984, he was already getting commissioned work. His most detailed and vivid works are of naked women. These images are what Mode 2 is most known for. In 2011, the artist showed a collection called “Offerings” in the Lucas Carrieri Gallery of Berlin. In the works, women are placed on a much larger scale than men. This gives the women a goddess-like feel, leaving the much smaller scaled men as offerings.
“I see woman as having been kept in an inferior place by the male members of society, while I try to somehow make their nudity seem more empowering – especially when we speak of this ‘goddess’ role that she plays,” Mode 2 said with art blog Arrested Motion.
Really, who doesn’t want to be a goddess?
Looking at his art for the first time was unsettling. We’re often flooded with picture-perfect women in ads on TV, in magazines and on billboards. You don’t realize how often it is that you see these unrealistic images until you’re staring at a real woman’s naked body on a massive canvas. “I also wanted to portray normal-looking female bodies – with curves, with drooping flesh here and there, and with body hair as well – what is not the standard of ‘beauty’ these days,” the artist said with Arrested Motion. The first pictures I saw by Mode 2 were the graffiti-like images of people dancing and slightly exposed women. After the initial shock of “oh my gosh, a real woman,” it’s actually refreshing to see something that’s not pornographic or “fixed” by computer programs. Before researching Mode 2 and his motives for his paintings, I basically just liked what I saw. I wasn’t overly impressed by the art itself so much as the skill that Mode 2 shows in his works.
Then, I came across a drawing of a woman lying on the floor next to a mirror with her feet propped up against a wall. It’s not overtly sexual, but rather simple. I spent several minutes just staring and wondering how I could read so much emotion and feeling off a black-and-beige image of a woman lying on the floor. Instead of the “Offerings” collection, this is where I felt I realized Mode 2’s message of beauty.
Even Mode 2′s other pieces of art that aren’t of naked women look realistic. It’s not that he’s created the most life-like portrait in terms of appearance, but the action in some of his pieces is what brings the art to life. Images of people dancing, jump off the canvas (or sometimes even cardboard or on outside walls) to show so much emotion and feeling that must lie in the artist somewhere. Mode 2 has made one thing clear: he wants his art to benefit someone other than himself. “The reason why I would want to paint something has a lot to do with who would benefit the most from it. I don’t know how much it actually meant to them, eventually, but, when I was in Cape Town in March 2006, I really did feel ‘useful’ somehow, painting a mural inside the District Six Homecoming Centre in Cape Town, South Africa,” the artist during an interview with Format Magazine, an urban art magazine.
Browsing through comments on Facebook, Flickr and magazine articles, most comments are in support of Mode 2. People call him an idol and an inspiration. There are the occasional comments on how his work is a bit sexist. There’s a fine line between sexist and empowering, so maybe the message was lost on a couple of people here and there. For the most part Mode 2’s audience is impressed and astounded with his work. In a society where there’s a specific image of what a woman should look like, Mode 2′s paintings shake up these expectations. Sexuality is still taboo if it doesn’t match what is “pretty,” but Mode 2′s art lets us know that we don’t have to buy into that brand of “beauty.”
It’s not just women that face this issue. Men are bombarded with what’s supposed to be masculine. Maybe we could convince Mode 2 to tackle that topic next.