Monday, January 07, 2008

Some thoughts on erotism and art.

The winner of CAA 's Distinguished Artist Award for Life Time Achievement for the year 2008 has been announced at New York.It goes to Sylvia Sleigh.Sylvia who must be more than 90 years of age now, is in the van-guard of the 'feminist art' world.
“I feel that my paintings stress the equality of men & women (women & men). To me, women were often portrayed as sex objects in humiliating poses. I wanted to give my perspective. I liked to portray both man and woman as intelligent and thoughtful people with dignity and humanism that emphasized love and joy.” Those are her touching words explaining her works.I am sure her work must have embarrassed the traditional gallery goer.But she broke new ground in painting those "creepy and erotic works ".
This reminds me that one of the works I missed at National Gallery ,London which I was able to visit many times during my stay there with my son this past December ,was "Rokeby Venus" by Diego Velazquez.It had been sent to some other gallary for exhibition.This is one of Velazquez's last works and his only surviving female nude(thanks to Spanist inquisition).He is said to have used only 3 colors to paint this picture of Venus with her face reflected in the mirror held by Cupid .
If Sylvia Sliegh expressed her indignation at painting female bodies as erotic objects in humiliating poses , by painting men in the same style ; in 1914 Suffragette Mary Richardson attacked "Rokeby Venus' with a meat cleaver at National Gallery.She made 7 slashes on the canvas which was repaired. "I have tried to destroy the picture of most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against Govt destroying Mrs Pankhurst ,who is the most beautiful charecter in modern history" she said.She did not like the way "men visitors gaped at that painting all day long"she said.
Has time changed the character of the gallery visiting males so much or was Mary Richardson over reacting even then, for I did not find "gaping" males thronging infront of nude female paintings when I was there. :). Even infront of portrait paintings of very honest nature by modern artists like Lucian Freud there were no idle oglers.
I have taken the photo of Sylvia Sleigh 's 'Turkish Bath ' from the website "Feminist Art In North America and Great Britain"
The exraordinarily sensuous female "Turkish Bathers"is by Dominique Ingres.It can be seen at Loure.
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