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Thursday, January 28, 2010

As promised ...

So ... I promised an opinion on nudes (Art! What did YOU think I was talking about?). Opinions can be boring, so I'll keep this short and sweet.  I fully realise that this has the potential to be a very controversial topic ... not among artists as a rule, whom I think generally, with a few exceptions, concur on the difference between art and pornography (and lets face it ... the only reason people ask or talk about this is because there are those who view paintings depicting people without cloths on, as porn), but among the viewing public. Be warned ... this is me blabbing on in the middle of the night, half asleep and probably not as erudite or logical as I can be.
Let me state, right up front, the very obvious.  Clearly I don't have a problem with painting nudes per se (previous posts baring evidence to this.... yes yes, the pun is intentional). 
In my humble opinion there are two important questions to be asked when it comes to the subject and formulating an opinion on the nude.
1. Is it art?
2. Is it moral?
Both of these questions are answered, I believe, quite simply by asking two more questions. I'll give you a clue ... to me, it's all down to context and intent. 
So, is it art?
It would be a foolish person I believe, to argue that a painting or sculpture is not art simply because the subject lacks cloths. Equally foolish to argue that every nude picture is art. So, how does one judge?
I have little difficulty in determining whether a the picture of, for very random example, a tractor is a technical diagram or a work of art! Why not? ... because of the context and intent! Both are usually quite obvious ... if it's an annotated dissection in a textbook, its a technical diagram ... if its a painting of a rusty tractor in a field with unusual lighting and angles, hanging in someones lounge, one can assume it's art.
Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" or "David"? Medical study? Pornography? Art work? Were they produced for medical study reasons? Hardly practical! Was it produced to titillate? Inconceivable!
See my point yet? Likewise, a photo in an 'adult 'magazine is clear in it's intent. The examples may serve to over-simplify the discussion, but I'm sure you can see my point. If the context is wrong and if the intent is not 'artistic' in nature, it isn't art.
But is it moral? 
Again, context and intent.
Nude paintings cannot in themselves be immoral. If the intent of the artist is purely to sexually excite the viewer, I'm sorry, I don't care how technically good the piece is, it is pornography. If the focus is form, light and highlighting the beauty of organic lines, well, then it's probably art. Be careful here not to confuse the reaction of the viewer with the intent of the artist. If the artist's intent is to display the beauty of form and light and the viewer is inadvertently aroused by the painting, that, in my mind doesn't disqualify the piece.  It may still have both artistic merit and be moral.  After all, if a sexual deviant who is turned on by say, high heel shoes, is aroused by a painting of a shoe, the viewer is the problem, not the artist.  It's all down to intent. The same shoe painting in a fetish magazine ... tada! ... immoral! Why? Intent to sexually arouse! Context? Obvious!
The human body is beautiful ... male, female, fat or toned like a gymnast, the lines are incredible and the organic form fascinating.  Our bodies are something that unite us and define us all ... they represent our transience and our connected humanity. Personally I can think of few subjects more noble, more rewarding or more empathetic for viewers than the nude. If it was good enough for the masters to paint, it's good enough for me!

So you tell me ... which is more erotic, Venus de Milo, or this?

"Bygone Era 11: Better Than Sex"
Oil on Canvas
20cm x 20cm

Like I said ... sleep deprived ... deal with it!

"There is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, - light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful. " - John Constable


Carl said...

Oh, and the other questions I seem to be getting quite a bit are... "Who's it a picture of?" and "Aren't you embarassed?"...
Well I either use myself as a model (not for the female nudes obviously) or I use photos from a handful of photographer's I know around the globe for reference. And no, I'm not embarassed with paintings of myself ... embarassment is all rather pointless when I already feel I expose a lot more than my skin in my paintings.
Barring one or two people, I'm otherwise not too phased by what people think.

Mercia Deale said...

Hi Carl, sleep devrived or not - I think you have captured the essence of the subject - I whole heartedly agree with you. It all boils down to the cliched saying "It's in the eye of the beholder"

To add to your subject: "Every artist undresses his subject, whether human or still life. It is his business to find essences in surfaces, and what more attractive and challenging surface than the skin around a soul?" (Richard Corliss)