Henny Burnett

Touch-me-not

A photographic and mixed media project about skin and ageing process, touch and body politics. Drawn from a personal experience, the artist use it to investigate the relationship and representation of the female body during and after the postnatal period.

For her, this ‘skin growth’ had been caused by the stress her skin had undergone during pregnancy resulting in premature ageing. Suddenly, once touchable skin had become untouchable, rough and unsightly. 

Part of the research, Aphrodite or Venus burnt in a fire and cracked, British Museum

The Photographic portraits of her torso affected by seborrheic keratosis will be projected onto a tablecloth and re-photographed. The introduction of the tablecloth into the work’s imagery relates to family history, as the Irish linen came from her grandmother.

Looking at the Wellcome Collection archive where I found illustrations of various surgical stitches and knots, I have started experimenting with stitching into the images of my skin.

Touch Me Not

Thermochromic ink on leather 59.5cm x 84cm (each print 59.5cm x 42cm)

It took time and endless experiments in the printing process to resolve technical issues using thermochromatic inks on leather, like colour fading, colour accuracy and subtle tonal variations these were resolved thanks to the collaboration with Lucie at Hex Prints.

“A key part of the commission required working with new techniques and pushing my practice into new areas.”

This is the final image showing the thermochromic ink working on leather

I wear my mother skin of seborrheic keratoses with pride now, and no longer with shame and embarrassment. The creative process is so much about decisions and the ability to adapt and change while remaining faithful to your original concept, and the making of Touch-me-not has challenged me on many levels.

The work is part of the Procreate Project commission 2020 round supported by Arts Council Emergency Response funds.