Nudity Art – Once Naughty, Now Masterpieces

There are pieces that give no clues as to their meaning but are enticing anyway. Nudity art, anyone? #NSFW

“A nude is a painting or a sculpture of a man or a woman who looks at ease and confident…” according to the critiques of the early eighteenth century, “If they look vulnerable or embarrassed then they’re naked, not nude anymore.”

How do we define nudity art?

Ask the man who paid a record-smashing price of 170.4 million for a Modigliani nude. It was one of the triumphs in art dealing, and it’s a nude piece.

Modigliani-Nude
Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché (1917–18).

The conversation surrounding nudity art has broadened profoundly as a result of the buzz. Nudity art had its heyday, from Michelangelo’s David (1501-04) to Manet’s Olympia (1863), Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) and Matisse’s Blue Nude series (1952). These ‘once naughty, now masterpieces’ paintings are hidden away in private collection; some are being displayed in world class museums such as Louvre, d’Orsay, Moma and so forth.

Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)
Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

Nonetheless, many nude pieces are still considered too risqué for its geology. For example, Islamic states do not have the reputation of appreciating nudity art, due to social prejudices, religious beliefs, and moral principles. Today, more contemporary artists are eager to prove that their conservative homelands are ready for nude art. That called for the exhibition “Bare, Naked, Nude: A Story of Modernization in Turkish Painting” at the Pera Museum in Istanbul.

Earlier this year, “Covered statues, a global affair,” blazoned the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. Since public depictions of nudity are largely forbidden in Iran, Italians decided to mock cover-ups of nude statues when President Hassan Rouhani of Iran came to visit. Culture clash much? National identity in question.

Why do artists paint them in the first place?

“Artists are a lot like scientists, we are always experimenting. We take what’s good from the history and execute further research; from there, we improvise.” — Kow Leong Kiang on the distillation process of art.

1) Nude on a blue chair oil & acrylic on canvas 61x76cm 2013 RM10,000
Nude on a blue chair oil & acrylic on canvas 61x76cm 2013.

Globe-trotting Malaysian art star Kow is blatantly honest about why he paints nude. “It appeals to me.” He has an innate feeling for human body and flesh as an expressive form of art, which obviously manifests itself in his body of work.

mrkow2
Kow Leong Kiang, the first Malaysian artist to receive the prestigious Philip Morris ASEAN Art Award in 1998.

Whilst Kow’s style may seem fully developed and his artistic message sensibly envisioned, the reality is that it’s all pretty much subconscious. That’s the beauty of it. He genuinely never thought about the line between artistic nude and simply naked. He is just naturally drawn to subjects that have a strong presence, “I like to paint something that’s very tight, almost struggling.”

The artist, who certainly has a healthy ego, elaborated further, “I don’t think about the meaning. The emotion comes naturally. Everything comes naturally.” In truth, it’s the spontaneity that makes it so indulging. It’s not always about developing one intellectual message but the curiosity with exploring sexuality and eroticism. The artist reiterated that painting, whether nude or not, is very much dictated by emotions and feelings.

Soft Figures 5 (2011) oil on linen 220x220
Soft Figures 5 (2011) oil on linen 220×220.

For one of the paintings in Kow’s Soft Figure series, he got eleven male and female models in Bandung, and fit them into a transparent box. He wanted to capture their expressive facial details and body movements when they were struggling, out of breath almost. The result was soulful, shocking or compelling that the appropriate word was the much overused “awesome”.

We don’t need a lot of answers for most things. If we want to make love, we don’t ask why.

As nude genre evolves, the liberty that the artists took in interpreting body of works, however, should not be exploited.

Soft Figures 6 (300dpi)
Soft Figures 6.

“I have to be considerate because I have Muslim friends on facebook. I feel like I have the responsibility to what I like and share. But paintings are different, they are being displayed in the gallery. If you put a notice in front the door, people can make their own choice,” Kow explained, with no uncomfortable overtone.

That’s a real gentleman.

Do you think nudity art should be a central part of art?

Featured image: Lying nude lll oil & acrylic on canvas (91.4x61cm 2014).

Eye-opening experience behind closed doors.

Enticing nudity art pieces from Khoo Sui Hoe, F. Sigit Santosa, Marvin Chan, Leo Abaya and Ahmad Zakii Anwar surface in an exclusive sale held by Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers (HBAA) — the leading art auction house in Kuala Lumpur. The highly-anticipated sale is set to take place on 17th April 2016 (Sunday) at Sime Darby Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur. All art enthusiasts are welcomed to join the fun!

  • Lot 093, AHMAD ZAKII ANWAR, UNTITLED, 1999, Mixed media on paper, 75cm x 55cm. ESTIMATE  RM 8,000 – RM 12,000
  • Lot 101, KHOO SUI HOE, LITTLE COUPLE, 1965-1999, Oil on board, 60cm x 60cm. ESTIMATE  RM 28,000 – RM 32,000
  • Lot 071, F. SIGIT SANTOSA, IDENTITY, 2009, Oil on canvas, 180cm x 140cm. ESTIMATE  RM 8,000 – RM 12,000
  • Lot 030, MARVIN CHAN, OPHELIE #2, 2012, Mixed media on linen, 80cm x 62cm. ESTIMATE   RM 5,000 – RM 7,000
  • Lot 031, LEO ABAYA, JUNTO A LAS FLORES ; JUNTO A LA MUJER (SET OF TWO), 2008, Acrylic and collage on canvas, 70cm x 70cm, each. ESTIMATE  RM 6,000 – RM 7,500

For more information, kindly contact Polenn Sim at +6016 273 3628 or Elizabeth Wong at +6013 355 6578, alternatively visit www.hbart.com.my.

AUCTION DAY

Sunday 17 April 2016 | 1pm
Sime Darby Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur
1A Jalan Bukit Kiara 1, 60000 Kuala Lumpur.  

SINGAPORE PREVIEW
31 March – 3 April 2016, 11am – 7pm
Artspace @ 222,
222, Queen Street #02-03
Singapore, 188550.

KUALA LUMPUR FULL VIEWING
7 – 16 April 2016, 11am – 7pm
Curate,
LG1-1, SENI Mont Kiara, 2a Changkat Duta Kiara,
Mont Kiara 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Danica Chia

Writer, flâneur & ice-cream enthusiast.

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