& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The naked me

Guest post by Meena Chopra

(Art in dialogue)

Nudity, Sensuality & Sexuality in Art -
Connecting Skin to the Corium and the Corium to the Centre
“We know that the nude form, more so female nude form is inherently sensual, specifically to the male eye, but an experienced artistic eye of any gender, caste or creed would surely perceive much more in it, which would complement the skin and the corium of the art with its inner core”.

The materiality of unclad, bare human body has been close to the imagination and interest of almost every artist down the ages, substantiating the core of multi layered timeless cyclic continuity of life, depicting the energetic static naked reality at the base of the ever flowing life stream.

The dauntless, gutsy and determined effort of un-layering and uncovering has more to do in coming to terms with the hidden reality of the self, claiming, confronting and accepting the starkness beneath and showcasing it to the world while searching the eventual reality as the intrinsic purpose of any art.  

Either consciously or subconsciously, at some stage of any artist’s career, this reality surfaces to the foreground. This is certainly true for any other art practices or forms such as, realistic, abstract, still life, nature study, or any other creative form such as creative writing, music, dance, and theatre, as all these rise intuitively from the same unchallenged and undeniable substratum of the mind. 

The question that recently came up, on the semi abstract nude series of mine, from some authoritative entities in arts was, whether sexuality was on my mind when making this semi-nude series? While for some the first reaction to my series of paintings was that these were ‘hot’, for some others it was ‘sensual’ which was understandable.  Some even suggested categorising this series as ‘Sexual Art’. 

It surprised and puzzled me. We know that the nude form, more so female nude form is sensual specifically to the male eye, but an experienced artistic eye of any gender, caste or creed would surely perceive much more in it, which would complement the skin and the corium of the art with its inner core. 

This led me to analyse how a North American art viewer is viewing, perceiving, discerning and reacting to ‘this nude figurative series of my recent work’ named SHE! The Restless Streak, and, for that matter, any art in general.

Especially so in North American settings where the art and its exposure are developing and it is still in its nascent stage, even now in the first quarter of the 21st century, in comparison to the other European and Eastern civilizations, with a history of mature artistic sensibilities. 

It’d be pertinent to point out at this stage that a semi abstract nude sculpture of mine was also denied entry into an art exhibit in 2005 at Novotel Hotel by Mississauga Arts Council. At a later date, the then Executive Director of Mississauga Arts Council – MAC, specially arranged to put a show of my smaller works of seminude series as part of Culture Days/Doors Open Celebrations at Sampradaya Art Creations in 2014.

This was an individual and personal effort from her, because she felt that this series needed a display and an audience even though they were semi nudes. At present, it is being showcased at MindSpace in Erin Mills Town Centre, again through MAC).  

Even in 2015, a curator refused to display these paintings even in a gallery setting in Heritage Mississauga, but later when I showed these works to the gallery in charge and the historian of Heritage Mississauga, he seemed to have no objections at an individual level.

The entire series of SHE! The Restless Streak, when brought to the Mississauga library’s display gallery for the final showcasing in September 2018, the newly appointed art coordinator seemed shocked and the reaction was that these cannot be displayed because nudity is not accepted.

She was new and unaware that one artwork out of these series received 1st prize from Visual Arts Mississauga in 2017 and was already displayed in the Mississauga Library Gallery previously.  Only when she confirmed it with senior management about this approved show, she permitted the display.  She commented that the government funded organization in Canada, where she previously worked, had strict rules and such art could not be displayed.  

My question is: Is this mindset able to really reach to the art beyond the certain dermal levels?

This provoked my thoughts further about the how a North American viewer is grasping and reacting to the art in general with its quintessence inherent spirit?

To the question of whether the sexuality was on my mind while making this art, leads to a few more questions that have little to do with art and more to do with preconceived notions. Does that mean to the viewer that, if I or anyone else, when painting a fully clad ‘Virgin Mary’ or a ‘religious figure’ should be having devout feelings and thoughts?

The fundamental question then is: Does the artist always have to compromise with the pressures of the market, the forces of social prejudices and state generated institutionalized rules supporting these prejudices, instead of bringing education and true understanding of arts?
I know of many artists who have their nude artworks lying or hidden in their studios and do not display them, merely to avoid the unnecessary controversies that may arise from such displays. But at the same time, some of them do take a chance of displaying such works wherever it is possible. 

I believe it is the responsibility of the ‘state’ and state funded art institutions and organizations to play an active role in giving arts a mature direction for homogeneous development of arts in the present social structure. I’d even lay special emphasize on the state’s role in creating the right atmosphere for young to better understand and accept art and self beyond its surface.

Art rises from the restless and veiled inner creative impulse that desire to be unveiled, to be expressed at the conscious levels of life. It then adorns itself with the rich skin of the artistic language of forms, colours, gestures, sound, or voice using various mediums and outlets, while embodying the expressions rising from the extreme depths of profound experiences.

It is a condition, where the subject (the inspired mind) and the object (the creative outcome), come close to each other and an experience is generated, where the artist gets synchronized with the art created in a totality and unity of the inspiring moments.  Creativity comes out of certain areas of madness where nothing else really matters but that moment needs to be expanded in the time zone.

The impact of the art created, draws the spectator towards the profundity of the artistic vision and takes that spectator beyond the ephemeral. (the spectator can be the experiencer of the ‘beyond' through the artistic object as much as the artist).

During the creative process, the artistic journey of the artist is upwards and outwards from the centre, seeking the light of the day with the heat of internalised creative fire, thereby giving art an authenticity and credibility to the revealed reality from beneath or the centre core while down reaching within.

This occurs through the creation, re-creation and resurfacing of images, motifs and symbols by the artist. Concepts and themes at the dermal level can vary in one’s art and creative work but what gives it the innate quality and validity, is its ability to draw the deepest unconscious hidden value behind the object of the art.

This process can be highly instinctive and can come through deep meditative gravity and at times through cryptomnesic fleeting moments. 

Here I would like to point out and stress upon the known fact, that historically, nudity in art is common in to Eastern and European cultures. This includes, Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, Italian and French pre and post renaissance, impressionism.

Nudity in art is prevalent in ancient and modern art of Indian subcontinent and other Eastern countries. Even gods and deities in chapels and temples are artistically sculpted, carved, drawn and painted in nude much earlier in time, even before Christ and centuries back. Do we then call all that art sexual? 

In general, the origin of these questions and statements being genuine and spontaneous from the viewers, perhaps significantly show and corroborate the perceived notion of North American society’s firm belief in its ‘claimed and persistent linear progress in its evolutionary stride’ where the ‘product and its consumption’ is the prime reality of life and becomes a standard to be lived by and is being extended even to the fine arts to most cases.

To discerning minds, fine art remains to be a way of ‘search’ and therefore a way to ‘rich life’ beyond the essentiality of capitalism and consumerism and more so as subjective unity of the artistic vision, union and its experience.  Whereas, the very foundation of North American society, is based on the production and its consumption.  This is highly contradictory and contrary to the artistic instincts and experiences and is paradoxical in general to the art world and to the value and worth of  ‘fine arts’ beyond the notion and scope of the convergence of popular culture and fine art. Fine art gives you a pragmatic rounded experience, which has no parallel to the consumerist materialistic values.  

Process of understanding arts comes through delving within and then rising from the deepness, while creating a union and a bond with the artistic work. I feel this exercise happens spontaneously, both for the viewer and the artist, even though not acknowledged and felt instantly.

There is a little scope of ‘linearity’ in ‘fine arts’ as art is not a ‘product’ but a ‘consequence’ of the inmost and the unfathomable.   It is a complete rounded experience. I must admit that it has made me a little cautious and prudent now of the environment around even after my seventeen years in Canada. The only satisfaction has been that, at least, these artworks were evoking certain feelings and interest even though at a transient and preliminary levels.  

I also felt that it becomes necessary to generate a feeling to develop an attitude which goes beyond treating art as not just a product but more as a way of life, right at the basic levels of education.

I feel it is important for us to observe the life not only as the linearity of the existence but also going beyond and observing it in a cyclic mode of time as well, which is already set by the law of nature.

This is imperative if we in North America are ambitious and have to come in near comparison with European, Asian and Eastern artistic cultures, also in becoming and claiming ourselves as an artistically developed society in the future.  If this could be achieved only then we can claim that we are in a position to truly advocate and to be true proponents of arts in North America. 

As an immigrant artist from developing world of Indian subcontinent with its ancient artistic civilization where ‘nudity’ in art is of little consequence, ideally my expectation is to have a better acceptance and a broader attitude of any such artistic practises in Canada.

The truth remains that the artistic vision, its expression and evolution through the ages has emerged and caused by the play and dynamics of two subtle formative energies of life (male and female). Art is an outcome of cause and effect, the negative and the positive.

These cosmogenic energies, which are the basis of artistic creation, rotating the world around us, are fugacious to the conscious mind. One must be sagacious and daring enough to delve into them and live with them to understand them. No art or creative effort is complete without sexuality in broad terms. Same is true for the religion also. As said earlier, nudity in art is not new and a lot has been said and written about it. 

As for me and for my personal journey as an artist, it is the dynamics of subtle female energy that continuously fascinates and captivates my mind for some unknown reason. There is an internal need and pressure to explore it. The mind at that point in time, when creating an artwork, gets totally engrossed and preoccupied with the mediums, form, strokes and colour etc. It is a meditative mood, rounded with pensive moments.

The same is true when the mind gets immersed while creating the abstraction and any other type and forms in art. The underlying thematic idea continues to be ‘genesis’ in all my styles, with a predominant undercurrent of subtle and evolving female energy. 

This truly gives a definite meaningful condition and determined direction to my art and life as a whole. I find all creation in fine arts to be related to instincts with the unquestionable and undeniable prevalence of sexuality in nature because of its roots in the interplay of positive and negative spiritedness but not necessarily only in its physical, corporeal and fleshy level but in its firm and solid roots in the genesis and in evolution and dissolution of the entire cosmic dance. 

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.
And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.
Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,
For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.

Some of you say, "It is the north wind who has woven the clothes we wear."
And I say, Ay, it was the north wind,
But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.
And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.
Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.

And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair     --Kahlil Gibran

Meena Chopra is a frequent contributor to this blog. She is a Toronto based author, artist.  She writes poetry both in English and Hindi. Born and raised in North India, she now lives in Mississauga, Canada.

No comments:

Post a Comment