Thursday, 19 April 2012

Images of Women

Images of Women
In the seventies and eighties I was involved with groups of women artists in London who wanted to take a stand against women being depicted as objects, things, just bodies, faceless or headless, legs and arms cut off to reduce them to a carcass, meat, torsos.
Around that time a woman, I forget who, showed a photo of a naked woman holding a bowl of apples under her breasts and smiling in a coy way, a nineteenth century saucy postcard perhaps. Next to this was a naked man holding a tray of bananas under his penis and smiling in a way that looked so silly but was so similar. It brought out the contrast in how naked images of women and men were used or not.
I still feel that to make more images of naked women is very difficult to do in any decent way that shows respect for women. Its a difficult matter. Some nude figures are done to learn how to draw. Often people fudge the head because they can’t draw very well.
A lot of people admire Greek ancient statues, so do I, but their mutilations were by accident, the arms got knocked off etc.
I’ve been to life classes, I was piling up images of naked women, what for ? To perpetuate a sort of bland version of page three ? To learn about the body? But in that case why show them? Pianists learn scales but they don’t have whole concerts of scales, they’re a means to later ends.
Bonnard painted his wife without clothes, having baths etc. To my mind these are not ‘nudes’ they are Bonnard’s beloved wife about to have a bath and he manaages to show his love and respect in them. She is a person: there is a context.
Manet painted ‘Olympe’ to make a point, it was shocking because she was so clearly a person, she looks out at us, not being observed secretly. 
Degas also I feel shows great respect for the women he depicts.
Contrast with the ghastly bloke who made a woman into a table, the horrid Sarah Lucas stuff, you can’t criticize degradation by joining in with it.
You can’t pretend a naked woman has only the same significance as an apple. This was pointed out to me in the 60’s at college, where we were doing life studies day and night for a term before life drawing was completely abandoned.
Much later I painted the above picture to make this point.
So I plead with people to take care if they want to show a naked woman, What is it for, what is your motive? What effect does it have? What does selling this image mean?

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