Why does vivid poolside artwork awaken the imagination? For some of us, a compelling photograph teleports us into the story. We can smell the water and feel the caress of sunlight on our skin. Warm stonework under bodies contrasts with the cool breeze over the pool. An expressive image can trigger a flow of memories and echoes: a frenzy of song and excited gasps, building to a peak of tactile indulgences, and winding down in the bliss of relaxing poolside. Seeing a beautiful body at the water’s edge awakens both memories and possibilities.
Humanity is connected through water, and similarly, through our appreciation of beauty. Creating a poolside oasis and depicting the unclad body both have a long history. The swimming pool is prevalent in literary fiction, motion pictures, and visual art as an alluring setting for drama or intrigue. Extroverts capitalize on the social possibilities of cavorting in a private lagoon, while introverts can find a quiet refuge.
In the Poolside artwork photography collection, Knight blends confident, sensual women with warm, luxurious, carefree days in the setting of an idyllic poolside getaway. There is a visual simplicity to pairing each manicured landscape with a reveler or two. Beyond these constituents, there is another harmony. On one hand, the artist strives to craft an image that is endlessly explorable on an aesthetic level. This is balanced with the more hedonistic fascination of celebrating sensuality.
The compositions are often sparse and pinup-inspired, with a single figure framed by her immediate surroundings. In contrast to their historical predecessors, Aaron Knight’s contemporary images are blatantly flirtatious and depict a diverse assortment of women in a stirring, sometimes provocative style. The images carry an undertone of escapism that is associated with pop imagery but with a rebellious appetite for celebration.
This streamlined aesthetic is cinematic, rather than documentary. The images often appear as though they were plucked from a larger narrative. They may intrigue us to speculate about the immediate past and impending events in the characters’ stories.
This series of images shows life in warm seasons, perhaps on vacation or an everyday occurrence. Each image contains some indication of a swimming pool. The pool can dominate the foreground, occupy a mere sliver of the background, or provide other evidence of a poolside setting. The subjects are not swimming, however. They are, for the most part, on solid ground.
Each pair of facing pages is arranged as a presentation, and the progression of images gradually transitions through various concepts and visual treatments.
The fundamental consideration of each composition is the arrangement of shapes and patterns, along with the relationships of one or more figures. A conspicuous swath of blue ripples typically appears in each image. The pool’s edges, whether straight or curved, define the water’s shape in the composition. The blue stands in contrast to rectangles, wedges of pavement, or lawn. Patterns also play a dominant role throughout. Ribbons of reflected sunlight on the surface are recurring characters, as are the natural stone landscaping patterns surrounding each pool. Lines and shapes repeat in grass, tree trunks, fronds, and shrubbery. Shadows cast by people and vegetation also play a part in creating patterns.
These are depictions of the good life, full of blissful optimism and possibility. The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in leisure with little apparent intention to move from their comfort. Enjoying the heat as an indulgence signals affluence, with the option to cool off with a quick dip. On the other hand, a swimming pool can be a modest luxury. A small backyard sanctuary can be a lush paradise without being extravagant. In this way, the poolside’s symbolism can appeal to people regardless of their station in life. Furthermore, the artwork can serve as an oasis for the viewer, a respite from hectic work or a reward at the end of the day. The appeal of a watery refuge is not confined to any one country or culture. Regardless of climate, a break from the heat, or the cold for that matter, can be afforded by a temperature-controlled pool.
Perhaps more striking, however, are the deeper thoughts this series of images provokes. What is the effort required to design such an oasis? One might contemplate the people missing from the image: landscapers, cleaners, and maintainers. Escaping from the swelter, rather than toiling in it, is a luxury afforded to the inhabitants of these landscapes. Anyone who has performed manual labor can view these photographs from these dual perspectives. Enjoying sun-kissed stonework surrounding a pool underscores the dichotomy of summer heat. For a lucky few, a poolside artwork celebrates a lavish lifestyle; for others, it’s a visual break from reality to dream of weekends or retirement by the water. Across a range of economic means, these depicted indulgences are, in one form or another, within reach.
The viewer may identify with such a lifestyle or aspire to it. Regardless of one’s station in life, we can connect to the desire to relax near clear, clean water. The presentations are ambiguous enough that each interpretation is personal. They not only let us dream of a lifestyle where leisure is commonplace but also contemplate if it’s only a myth or a mirage beckoning us toward it. One may even regard the images’ array of familiar symbolism with a degree of satirical humor.
The poolside artwork is organized into sections: scenics, single portraits, multiple portraits, and black and white. Scenics are tableaus with multiple elements integrated around the water. Portraits spotlight a centerfold-like subject with a swimming pool as a backdrop. Multi-subject images, composed as portraits, are in a distinct section. Black-and-white images use subtle, near-monochromatic hues to draw the eye through a composition free of color. Some images are ambiguous or overlap these distinctions.