Friday, 24 October 2014

The Beautiful, Un-Pornographic, Un-Idealised, Life-Affirming Female Nude!

Aleah Chapin: Auntie (2012)
This is a painting that the prestigious, World-Renowned Art Critic Brian Sewell labelled 'repellent - a grotesgue medical record'. It's by the 28 year old American artist Aleah Chapin, and with it she won the BP Portrait Award in 2012. Clearly to some minds, a woman is no longer a human being once she is (a) over sixty years of age, and/or (b) naked. I wonder if the model herself had to suffer the hurt and indignity of hearing Sewell's words? I hope not.
I'm reminded of a few responses I had when I started posting female nudes on my Facebook timeline (looking at art has given me increasing happiness over the past year). It really got me thinking, and I realised that subject matter doesn't matter as long as it's truthful. It makes no difference whether an artist paints a landscape, a still life, a building, a village street, an animal (human or otherwise), a rich socialite or a poor labourer, a man or a woman, a person wearing clothes or a person who is naked. It's all life. Art paints life, and often finds beauty where the devourers of fashion magazines do not.
The only reason I tend to share female nudes on Facebook is purely subjective preference. As a heterosexual male, I tend to be more aware of their beauty, so they tend to move me more. Also, many of my favourite artists tended to paint female nudes rather than male. It's true that I find many of them sexy, but I don't respond to them merely with my genitals, as I might if they were porn; instead, they fill my whole body, mind and being with a kind of life-affirming joy. But I can still appreciate the beauty of male bodies, and would be interested and happy to see their portrayal in art posted on my friends' timelines.
Zinaida Serebriakova: Portrait of Ekaterina
Serebriakova, Daughter of the Artist (1928)
Truthful art is not porn (at times the division can be a little fuzzy, but then I would argue that the art in question is not being truthful in the deepest sense; instead, however talented, the artist is helping to perpetuate myths or lies about women - or indeed men!) Likewise, photoshopped fashion images are not art, because they are lying too. They are not depicting life on any level. On the other hand, I find this portrait (and a nude can still be a portrait, as my favourite artist Zinaida Serebriakova showed) touching, beautiful and true to life. It's not a lie. This woman is gorgeous and a real person, and I'm happy to display Aleah Chapin's work of art on my timeline - and on this blog. 
I'm also happy to have discovered a still living artist (20 years younger than me!) whose paintings I like. Unless my friends stop following me, of course, I think they'll be seeing more of Chapin's work on my timeline! 

Sorry if this reads like a rant, but I feel an ongoing frustration both about the degrading and damaging lies perpetrated by photoshopped nudes, as well as the attitude that regards the female nude in art as inevitably pornographic. I love art that makes me happy (hence Renoir, Sargent and Serebriakova), that makes me feel good about life. This painting does just that. 

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