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Why the brush spells nudity more

The debate over nudity in art is unparalleled and more heated now, says Vibhuti Agarwal.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2006 20:27 IST

A beautiful young woman sat quietly at the centre of the stage surrounded by withered branches and hay. Her face and naked chest were painted on the canvas with florid colours in red and white.

The alluring and curvaceous poses of the woman combined with her nudity added a distinct sensual element to the work. Looking at these paintings, the viewer feels they are stealing a glance at the private moments of the lady in question.

Researchers have claimed that the more creative a person, the more sexually inclined he is.


 Adding sensuality to art

"Perhaps the key to it can be found in the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve, where we are told that nudity was an intrinsic part of the enjoyment of Paradise prior to the Fall. The story of Adam and Eve tells us that nudity without shame was symbolic of a state of innocence," believes Hemant Shreshta, whose paintings depict delicate nude, yet coquettish settings.

Be it religious art or portraiture, the naked human form has always fascinated artists, and has been one of the enduring subjects. Almost all the gods of Greek and Roman antiquity were represented in statues as nudes.

Satish Gujaral, whose latest collection of paintings 'Retrospective', has won him worldwide acclaim, sees nudity as a representation of contemporary culture.

"Basically, there is nothing nude, except the theme. I've always sought to find the poetic element in whatever I experience visually, be it an object or human activity. The present phase tries to reveal this poetic aspect of the human body at play, which is like a ballet."

The re-discovery of the significance of human body seems to have become one of the most valuable achievements by the new wave of painters and artists.

Anupam Sood, on being questioned about this fascination with the nude in art, replies:"My paintings are an expression of the feelings inside me. I think that nudity indicates vulnerability and a kind of purity of the soul. Without the superficial cover of clothing, the figures in my paintings become more human. I don't try to make my paintings sensual. I just try to make them soft. It is not a bad thing if some people find my paintings to be sensual. Sexuality is also a kind of culture."


 Abhisarika: Husain's creation

MF Husain, India's best-known contemporary artist did a series of paintings that capture intimate moments, exploring the human form. Nude studies are his primary subject. He does not embrace the erotic tradition, but there is certainly an underlying eroticism in his work. The fact that the figures in his paintings evoke fantasy makes the work modern.

However, when life is displayed in the form of art in a relatively free manner through bodily activities, many feel uneasy about it.

Keshav Datta, a well-known critic articulates this, "It is a mess that something may do something obscene under the umbrella of art. If putanother way, it is just like a society that has no public toilets."

The debate regarding nudity in art is unparalleled and more heated these days. This is a concept that Korean artist Robin Buntin turns upside down, as he shows how society and nudity are inextricably intertwined. What Buntin does is to deconstruct through his nude paintings the camouflage that clothing provides and to show how culture is not just a construct of clothing. Culture exists in nudity as well.

"The nude can celebrate the body as the most marvellous and beautiful creation of God, and in doing so, remind us that we are made in God's image," he says.

How we see nude reflects on our own prejudices about the naked human body. The exhibition of a naked body, which used to be considered private, has definitely acquired a lot of free space in the recent times.

Naturally, our artists have painted the nude as a natural phenomenon. Who knows what compelled them to do so?

To put it in Walt Whitman's words: "If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred."

First Published: Feb 17, 2006 16:10 IST