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Reconceptualising Nudity in Art

Controversies around nude expressions in "Art Forms" have been around for a while. There are artists who like to indulge themselves passionately in nude paintings and artwork. However, a lot of nude paintings since the inception of art, were either banned by the state or were not taken well by the spectators.

It is definitely quite overwhelming for the artists to explain themselves to the general public. They come from a place that is redefining their vulnerabilities, their past and a concept of what they are and what they represent. It is a challenge to reach out to an audience when they do not want to demarcate nudity in art from nudity in pornography.

Historical Representations through Nude Art:

Nude Art has helped people construct and deconstruct many portions of our remaining history. Every human being has a tendency to be voyeuristic by nature. This does not imply that everyone is a pervert but it surely does imply that each one of us are curious about what is going on in other people's minds and bodies. Realising that someone else must have practiced their body through a process that was forward and made them happy, helps us cope with our bodies as well. The nude artwork of Goddess Saraswati by M.F Husain is a depiction of vulnerability and strength. We have been rigorously conditioned to have certain bodies that are of an unrealistic nature. However, when we look at this particular painting, we realise that a body doesn't have to be perfect even when She is a Goddess. M.F. Husain portrays bodies beautifully in all of his paintings. While some are abstract and others have a certain shape to them, he makes sure that it doesn't conform to the unrealistic beauty standards. When we speak of history, FN (Francis Newton) Souza has made monumental contribution to Nude Art. The nude female form was a subject of both torment and fascination for him. His works explore a wide range of physiognomies (shape and feature of a person's face). His paintings represent a virulent response to socio-religious norms of the 1950s.

Standing Nude by Francis Newton Souza

"With her unusually long limbs, dominates the frame and the towering cityscape that Souza situates her in. Although her gaze is direct, Souza has not sexualized or disfigured her appearance. Instead she is demure and luminous, almost like an otherworldly apparition against the night sky. Combining his characteristic thick black outlines with an almost sculptural construction using impasto, the artist gives this nude a powerful statuesque presence that calls to mind Indian temple carvings. Souza also uses fine cross-hatched lines to heighten the definition of the figure and the architectural structures around her, creating a halo-like glow that evokes a sense of the other and the unfamiliar" stated the 1959 Christies literature of FN Souza.

It is essential for the audience to be more accepting of nude art forms as it is not only about expressing a personal conflict but it is also about a breakthrough into the socio-political events of our day to day lives.

A more personal take to the historical, social and political situations of the world, is the key to more acceptance as we reach out to more people, and what better key is there than the artists themselves penetrating the world of politics through fine and wide strokes of their brushes with a potpourri of colours to define an origin and a death. The beauty of art is that the dead never dies and the living has several avatars.

Why Should we Re-Conceptualise Nudity in Art? It is true that any nude art will consist an element of realism. Appreciating any form of art requires deliberation and patience. MF Husain had to self impose himself on an exile as he was receiving death threats over the paintings that he had painted. There were some that was supposedly "anti-national". However, one of them received the most flak. It was an abstract nude painting of Mother Earth (Bharat Mata) in rage, crying and red. She is unhappy with how the country has turned out to be.

Bharat Mata by MF Husain

This abstract nude painting in red led to bitter protests in several parts of the country. He was trying to portray how a woman had been enslaved especially after the colonial impact. This painting received a lot of right wing opinion which were not in the best spirits.

Why is this Necessary to Talk About?

Nudity has been present in Art just as long as Humans have been creating it. The earliest depictions of nudity was in Greek Mythology. Greeks always held the view of appreciating the human body. Seduction became a part of nudity in the eastern and western parts after a long time. It was in depictions through Kamasutra and Praxiteles.

Each one of us were born with a naked body. Nude art provides us with an essence of reality. Our own nudity is something that we may not be ready to confront. However, art provides us with that mirror to help us confront our nakedness. It could be both beautiful and frightening at the same time. It could be innocent and sexualised, or free and controlled. This mirror is an elegant confrontational tool which helps us find out who we are. It takes us away from the confounded bodily relations.

Art is a necessary tool with our distorted imagery of what nakedness actually stands for. A true form of acceptance will probably take decades or even a century. However, we must not forget, the socio-political relevance of art and artists over the past centuries. Artists have uplifted countries and broken them too. Art is not just an icon for rebellion, it is also an icon for faith.

"What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful that the garment with which it is clothed?"



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