By Doug Rickard
Bill Henson does what he wants. He must fulfill his urges. It matters not what viewer thinks, nor does he care for worldly rules. His dreams – the earth, youth, the no man’s land of burgeoning sexuality and ambiguity – forceful lust, love, longing, loss of innocence – a sense of familiarity yet distance, voracity yet tenderness, a blanket of darkness yet warm and humid. These are the things that drive his dreams. The camera serves as a mechanism, a framework, a tool if you will but it does not define the work, it rather simply becomes a vehicle from which to speak and from it pours a complex language.
His settings and subjects, lush and empty, aging, velvety-decors and svelte, glistening teens, inner worlds, insanely beautiful but unavoidingly polarizing and controversial. They are humanistic and full of vitality, but in the land taboo to be certain. As with Mann, there the unstoppable will by Henson – a force and clarity of intention that maintains a purity through the work. It’s a dangerous line, a tightrope act though perilous and hallowed ground and it massively succeeds.
Jet-black darkness is critical for Henson. These dark dreams, the thick black body always envelopes his subjects, it is a subject. Larry Clark’ish teens, flawless yet flawed, full of power yet tinged with fragility, innocent yet at once full of sexual fire. Blackness transforms the world into a void of dark warmth, dark matter. And it’s warm-not cold, the black is thick, like soot, physical in it’s function, a mass, a subject of it’s own, not empty, but full and alive. Perhaps the darkness is a blanket for the youth, or the internal ferocity of their spirit and the emotional impulses powered like a typhoon.
Henson walks this tightrope across the taboo-chasm, does he ever fall? Who knows, one can’t see inside of Henson. On this tightrope walk, the fall really lies within the walker and his heart, the reasons for his drive. We can’t see that, none of us, only Henson can.
ASX CHANNEL: BILL HENSON