Tom Penfold

Review of “Paul Mpagi Sepuya”: ‘between desired object and desiring subject’.

Sepuya’s portrait photography, described by the artist as ‘queer modernism’, disrupts the conventions of traditional studio portraiture, to become a site of homoerotic social relations: a space where the roles of artist and subject are constructed and contested. The book exposes Sepuya’s play with artifice and performance as it outlines the development of his visual practice, cataloguing how he uses his own body, and those of his intimate circle of friends and lovers, in ways which challenge notions of power and authorship. Deeply connected with the written word, he found in texts and literature a way to make sense of this ‘gap of language between desired object and desiring subject’ (p.14), the very gap in which his practice is located.