Tag Archives: nudes

Buffing the Buff

In Melbourne’s Hosier Lane two nudes in that Lush painted were censored by the Melbourne City Council. A very unusual occurrence for the city council to buff anything in the tourist attraction zone that is Hosier Lane.

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Lush, nude #?, 2016 (photo by Dean Sunshine)

Lush must be a real artist because he is painting nudes, yeah right. (That reminds me about when I discovered that there was another use for porn magazines, life drawing.) I don’t think that there are many nudes in the NGV Australia across the road from Hosier Lane, as Dean Sunshine argues in the defence of Lush, but there is the nineteenth century painting of Chloe, an underage nude teenager in Young and Jackson’s upstairs bar, about 200m away in the pub on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets.

However, both of these examples are not outdoors in the public and Melbourne City Council applied the same Australian public broadcasting guidelines for nudity in advertising and public places. Basically this meant painting over the nipples and genitals. (If this was a painting of a nude man painting over the genitals would be described as ‘emasculation’.)

The Australian public broadcasting guidelines produce the strange result of become an adjunct to nipple shaming and slut-shaming. Indeed the word ‘slut’ has been written over another Lush’s nudes, this time copy of Kim Kardashian’s nude selfie in Cremorne, Melbourne. The removal and buffing of these nudes is done for basically the same reason that the person who wrote ‘slut’ on Lush’s painting of Kim, to demonstrate society’s disapproval of naked female bodies. (Don’t you feel proud of Australia when its laws and ugly sexists are in agreement? It makes me feel so confident in the reasons and logic behind these laws.)

In all probability Lush is self-indulgently laughing at all this. I like the way that newspapers have decided to call him ‘Lushsux’ after his Instagram/Twitter account.


Ringholt’s Kraft

Someone has parked a red Datsun Charade with personalised number plates, CUR8OR, in the plaza in front of MUMA (Monash University Museum of Art) on Monash’s Caulfield campus. Even worse they have left the passenger window down and on the back seat there are some old clothing and rubbish.

Stuart Ringholt, CUR8OR

Is Stuart Ringholt embarrassed by this?

Kraft at MUMA is a mid-career exhibition of the art of Stuart Ringholt and Ringholt art is about embarrassment and conforming to social conventions. It feature two new commissions: Club Purple and the giant clock (oh er! that sounds a bit rude), Untitled, telling the wrong time.

Ringholt’s art posses particular problems for curators because his art is often ephemeral. Often his art is a personal experience for both Ringholt and responder/viewer, it questions the distance between the artists and the responder/viewer. Fortunately for the curators, Ringholt does produce some tangible art and some video work. They do have to double up with one Ringholt’s work currently on exhibition in Melbourne Now but have a longer version of his collage, Nudes, 2013. In this uptight contemporary world Ringholt is one of the few Melbourne artists who is focused on that perennial theme of the nude, as well as, in Ringholt’s case naturism.

Art curators are on Ringholt’s mind too as the car’s number plates and the five amazing episodes of the video Starring William Shatner as the Curator, 2010. Is Ringholt trying to embarrass the curators, as well as, himself? Shatner and the cut-up Star Trek episodes make wonderful jokes about curators.

But seriously, aesthetics is a far wider topic than just the beautiful. Aesthetics can be a way of experiencing things. In the late 20th century consideration began to be given to a range of aesthetic experiences; kitsch was examined by Clement Greenberg, camp by Susan Sontage and other writers and artists have explored aesthetic experiences ranging from sentimentality to cornball, from horror to funk. Ringholt’s art poses the question is there an aesthetic of embarrassment? If there is then part of it would cross over into the aesthetics of the comic and the cute and, it would be equally possible to cross over into the multiple aesthetics of contemporary art.

Which bring me back to an important point about Ringholt’s art it is often very funny. Even if embarrassment humour is not my taste I did get a laugh (LOL) from Ringholt’s Conceptual Art Improving My Embarrassing Life, 2003, a series of collage books and magazines to leaf through. The cover was often so completely different to the contents.

Stuart Ringholt, low sculptures

The room of low sculptures with the modified chairs, drink/spray cans and joke fake sausages are some of the funniest sculptures that I’ve seen in awhile. Things in Ringholt’s world are thoughtful combined to be as awkward as possible and inelegant solutions are carefully engineered.

I didn’t use Club Purple, Ringholt’s nude disco even though I was there on a Thursday that was set aside for solo dancing. Was I too embarrassed or simply too time poor? The form for bookings at Club Purple was intimidating enough.

Colour Figures

Curiously, I don’t think that I’ve seen an exhibition of figure drawings for a few years until today; it was once a prominent feature of art exhibitions. “Swallow Flex and Wither” is a series of figure drawings by Emma Michaelis at Tinning Street Presents. Emma was gallery sitting when I visited so I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her drawings. Emma Michaelis is based in Melbourne and a recent graduate of the Australian Academy of Design.

Emma Michaelis @ Tinning Street Presents...

Emma Michaelis @ Tinning Street Presents…

All her drawings in the exhibition are done with coloured pencils. The most obvious thing about this series of drawings is the different colour of each of the drawings. There is a series within this series of self-portraits exploring the different colours; three primary colour heads (the yellow is almost invisible), secondary colour feet and hands, and finally tertiary colour drawings of less significant parts of the body, like the backs of legs.

There are three beautiful, blue female nudes, sitting, standing and lying, drawn on vast sheets of paper. There are no backgrounds in any of Michaelis’ drawings; the place where the drapery or bathtub would has been left blank, keeping the focus on the flesh of the figures.

Two orange “golden” mirror image male nude figures with prominent foot stretched out to the viewer. There are a lot of drawings of feet in this exhibition, lots of small drawings of feet that Emma Michaelis jokingly calls it her “hoof and claw” series. Her drawings are technically very good; the mood of her drawings is calm, almost romantic with the focus slightly softened.

Tinning Street Presents is part of an interesting area of Brunswick. The light industrial area by the closed railway crossing around Tinning Street and Ilham Lane has become a creative hub with street art, artist’s studios and other creative enterprises.

January Heat

As Melbourne bakes in major heat wave nobody will be visiting any galleries; last week I did get to see a couple of exhibitions. Many of the galleries in Melbourne are still closed and their front windows covered in paper. Those commercial galleries that are open in Collingwood and Fitzroy are having stockroom exhibitions or exhibitions of aboriginal art. Many of the other rental spaces and artist run spaces throughout the city are filled with the extensive Midsumma Visual Arts program.

I met Tim, who headed Midsumma team organizing the visual arts program when I was visiting 69 Smith St and congratulated him on several years of producing excellent programs

Midsumma at 69 Smith St. has five exhibitions of nude photography. Downstairs there is Rick Connors expanding a strong graphic idea from Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of contrasting colored torsos. Alexander Edwards exhibition Touch Me works on the idea of writing the thoughts on the body. Upstairs David Khan’s Naked makes much of its use of ordinary men as models but the results just look like professional models. Chris Nash’s haunting little exhibition “Could I exist as just one these elements” is the most original and interesting of these exhibitions. (I reviewed Midsumma @ Platform in an earlier entry).

BSG is open and filled with exhibitions of massively varying quality from paintings by 2-year old, Aelita Andre (see my entry Toddler Arts) in one gallery to This Is Brunswick Arts in the next. The 9 artists that run Brunswick Art Space annually have group exhibitions in other galleries. Their work varies from photographs by Alice Dunn and Catherine Evans, paintings by Alison Hanly and James Wray, a large drawing by Alister Karl, a neo-baroque wallpaper cut-out by Karis Sim and sculptures by Lenni Morkel-Kingsbury, Kieran Stewart, Erin Voth and Benjamin Webb.

In yet another room photographer Christopher Atkins “Hidden in Plain Sight” at BSG is sub-titled “Re-imaging Masonic Architecture”. It is a series of b&w and color photographs of the suburban Masonic temples in Melbourne from the outside and inside. The Masons are not a secret society; their temples are everywhere, old buildings from the first half of the 20th century when Free Masons were a popular organisation. Atkins both documents the changes in the architecture and the function of the Masonic temples; some are now converted into apartments or medical clinics. But Atkins photographs do more than just document; the old Masons alone inside their empty halls are haunting in their emptiness.

As this heat wave continues I will be staying out of the sun and so it will be unlikely if I see any exhibition in the next week.

Susanna and the Elders

I hate having to preach from the Bible but as there are so many evil people who call themselves Christian railing against Bill Henson, David Hamilton, Sally Mann and Jock Sturges that I am moved to such speech. The story is Susanna and the Elders, from the Book of Daniel is about a virtuous woman who is seen naked by two old men. The lustful old men try to blackmail Susanna by claiming that they saw her commit adultery with a young lover. Daniel, the judge finds inconsistencies in the old men’s false evidence and Susanna’s innocence is established. Scenes from this story were popular in art in the 16th to 18th century because it shows that nudity is not a sin and not to believe the slanders but the evidence.

Just as in the story of Susanna and the Elders, the evidence has never backed up the allegations of those people who have seen these nude photographs as pornographic. The so-called Christians who condemn these photographers are willing to bear false witness against their neighbours, slandering them without evidence.

This year’s attack in Australia on photographer on Bill Henson follows a familiar pattern. In 2005 work by photographer David Hamilton were classified as indecent by a British Court but this was left in confusion and Hamilton’s books are still legal in Britain.

In 1992 Sally Mann’s book Immediate Family, which included nude photographs of her own children, was condemned as pornographic by American Christian groups. And American photographer Jock Sturges was raided by the FBI for his photographs of nude children taken in naturist communities but the case was thrown out by a grand jury.

Australia is part of a trend in the U.S. and Britain to engaged in war crimes and to censor photographers for taking photographs of naked children because it is obscene. This moral confusion is a major difference between the Anglo-American culture and European (along with NZ and Canada). Perhaps there is something seriously wrong with Anglo-American culture. “The fascination of girls in childhood and adolescence has appealed to many English artists” Peter Webb, The Erotic Arts (London, 1982) Webb mentions photographers, Lewis Carroll, Peter Widdison and David Hamilton who all produce work focused on nude young girls.

Interview with Kelvin Thomson, MP

Recent events might cause people to think that all Australian politicians are philistines. So I decided to pose a few brief questions via email to my local member Kelvin Thomson the Federal Member for Wills. He was very quick to reply to prove that he does have an interest in the arts.

Mark Holsworth (MH) : What was the last visual arts exhibition that you attended in your electorate?

Kelvin Thomson (KT): The last visual arts exhibition I attended in my electorate was Friday June 20, an art show put on by Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College called “Something in the Air”. Before that, in my electorate, was “The Yard” Art Exhibition Saturday 3 November 696 Sydney Rd Brunswick. 

MH: Yes, 696 is well worth a visit; I have written about several of its exhibitions in my blog. And otherwise what was the last visual arts exhibition that you attended?

Kelvin Thomson: The last visual arts exhibition I attended was as above. Before that was Monday May12, Turner to Monet, Landscape Exhibition at the National Gallery, Canberra.

MH: What was the last live performance (theatre, concert, opera, dance) that you attended?

Kelvin Thomson: The last live performance I attended was the musical put on by Pascoe Vale Girls on Friday June 20; the performance before that was “Keating, The Musical” in Melbourne in 2007.

MH: Who is your favorite contemporary visual artist?

Kelvin Thomson: I don’t have a favourite contemporary visual artist; I’m more your Eugene Von Guerard nineteenth century landscape type.

MH: What is your favorite work of visual art featuring a nude?

Kelvin Thomson: Chloe, formerly (?) of Young and Jacksons.

MH: Thank you for your answers. It is good to know that you are aware about the arts and I hope that readers of my blog will find this better view of a Federal MP’s involvement with the arts than PM Kevin Rudd’s recent breakfast TV comments.

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