Thursday, October 25, 2007


sex and art

i read two interesting art reviews that appeared in the guardian unlimited recently which reaffirmed what i and most of you've known all along, namely there's a very fine line between art and porn and and that sex has always been a big fixture of any art form.

the first is Beyond Lust a very good review of a current art exhibition which i wish i could visit ( Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to the Present at the Barbican, London EC2, until January 27. ) and the second is an even more intriguing show . Barefoot (and more!) in the park - another good review of an even more challenging art exhibition of photography by one japanese artist who haunted public parks at night and photographing people having sex in the 1970s. It's probably criminal in most places but here's another thing. any other person caught doing this kind of thing in most places will likely be beaten up and hauled to the police station. but in this particular case he got away with it and his photographs are now considered high 'art'.

when i was young , we don't have too many activities at night. many houses in our village were really crappy with wooden or zinc walls full of cracks and holes and naturally some of us adapted to the situation and evolved to become expert peeping toms. one of my close friends during those good old days were well known for two things. one, he was blessed by god to have what some of you would call 'a whopper' between his legs, and another; he was our village peeping tom champion. i'm a coward by nature and never attempted anything remotely close to what my friend did. He was splashed with hot water, pissed on the face while peeping upon unsuspecting young lady urinating in between cracks of the floorings in her bedroom, chased by irate fathers on a few occasions.

when he had a particularly good night hunting he would regale us all the details and in time i got to know most of our village girls private life and their private parts. who had the bald pussy , who was the hairiest, who the biggest...and as he related all these, he would get excited and his pecker would become alive and turned into...a whopper...and he would challenge us all to compare ours with his and we naturally declined. it is a pity in those days we don't have digital cameras...other wise he too would probably become an artist...

very much later, this voyeuristic interest never left me but evolved into a more refined and one can say a civilized manner. art, particularly paintings and books on erotic art become surrogate voyeurism. of course this days you don't have to be king farouk (who, in case you don't know was the last king of egypt and had a vast collection of pornography) to satiate yourself with erotic art (and porn). a click on your computer keyboard will start you on a journey into one of the most interesting sexual world that you may never recover from. so beware. ah...and just a reminder . if any of you ladies have a husband who always work up to three o'clock in the morning 'balancing the account' you know that he's up to no good.

but as i was saying, paintings and books are my thing. a long time ago i came across a book which i already mentioned in previous post sometimes back. this is the intimate sex lives of famous people. the book is divided into sections with titles such as 'men who enjoyed girls 16 years old or younger'- Goethe, Pepys, mark twain..., 'outsize organs' , -jimi hendrix, guy de maupassant etc, and yes, 'peeping toms' too...hitler, tolouse-lautrec....and quite recently added another two similar books to my collection - the sex lives series by nigel cawthorne.
One is sex lives of the popes and another sex lives of the great artists.

all very interesting stuff. but there are three books that first started me to get interested in erotic art and really influenced and make me look at art(paintings) in a certain light. i bought these many many years ago during my university days. First is Erotic art of india by phillip rawson, a small book of 40 beautiful color plates of indian miniature paintings of hindu god krishna having sex with cow girls, and beautiful mogul paintings of copulating couples in various positions among others. secondly, 'the erotic art of the masters' (with an introduction by henri miller) which introduced me to the world of japanese 'shungas' among other things. and the complete book of erotic art vol 1 & 2 which is a result of the first international exhibition of erotic art held in museums in sweden, and denmark in 1968! which gave a good survey of erotic art of the eastern and western world with beautiful and sometimes funny pictures of copulating couples by the like of picasso, chagall, grosz, rodin among the more famous names -very much like the current exhibition at the barbican mentioned above- and more japanese shungas, and indian miniatures and also chinese erotica.

and now, i have a dilemma. last week, when i was in beijing i saw this beautiful oil painting at a place known as 'the flower market' which is actually a three storey building selling all kinds of things including flowers of course (on the ground floor) and mostly crappy paintings on the second floor. Several years back i was lucky to find in panjayuan weekend market a book "works of the chinese nude oils exhibition" which is an exhibition catalogue of the first chinese nude oil exhibition! and the cover was " girl with still life" depicting a beautiful young girl in nude by the now famous artist yang feiyun . and the painting that i saw in the flower market was obviously after this painting or a copy of another similar painting by this artist. " girl with still life" was a girl standing with hands clasped to hide her private part and with a bowl of peach on the table on the right and a rubber (ficus) tree in a pot behind. the painting that i bought was the same standing girl but with plaited hair brought to the front, same rubber tree (not very well done) but this time with a bowl of lemons and placed on the left instead. it was a huge painting of around five feet by five and i bought it for a song (cheap, as it was obviously a student copy). i had to take off the stretcher frame and rolled it up to bring it back. and now i've reframed it but the question is where to put it? i'm thinking to hang it in my office but i'm not sure if office people will take it positively. in fact i'm very sure i'll get into trouble with sexual harrasement . that goes to show one man's art is another man (or woman)'s porn.

here is the painting anyway. what do you think?

it's a very beautiful picture. smut is in the eye of the beholder lah
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