Previous Exhibition

Naked or Nude?

Feb 11 – Feb 20, 2021

For our first exhibition of 2021, we have invited artists to participate in a group show coinciding with Valentine's Day, a ritualised day synonymous with hallmark greeting cards and teenage admiration. Naked or Nude? aims to provide a platform for artists whose practice creatively explores themes of nudity, sexuality, censorship and erotica. Yet, this work socially viewed as obscene or pornographic, is often forcibly removed from our social media feeds under the label of censorship. 

The guidelines for appropriate imagery online and in public is confusing and restrictive. Pietro Aretino muses, "Why should I be ashamed to describe what nature was not ashamed to create?", while Robert Bresson later stated that "In the Nude, all that is not beautiful is obscene." This conflict of nudes seen as beautiful and nakedness being purportedly obscene is well documented throughout art history. Nudity in art has always existed: see the Venus of Willendorf for an early example, and later, Titian's Venus of Urbino, and an example of Early Modern nudes such as La Maja desnuda in 1797 by Goya. However, nudity has been separated from nakedness in visual art, and in the late modern and postmodern era, we see a shift to explicit imagery focussing on the naked body. As Kenneth Clark muses in his often-cited book, 'The Nude: a Study in Ideal Form', he states that to be naked is to be deprived of clothes and implies embarrassment and shame but nudes, as works of art, have no such connotations. This position suggests that nakedness and nudity are separate symbols, and belong in different categories of appropriateness. As Bernard Poulin offers, "To know the difference between erotica and pornography, you must first know the difference between naked and nude." 

Not always explicitly graphic, some works use familiar tropes of suggestion, euphemism and symbolism to illicit recognisable sexualised content. Some works in this showcase have used explicit imagery. Both approaches to this exhibition are validly exploring themes which historically have been deemed inappropriate and offensive; the natural desires and private lives of sexuality and sexual activity have long been labelled salacious and vulgar. Interestingly, as curators we find ourselves desensitised to nakedness and nudity, and grateful for the opportunity these works present as viewers.

As Martha Mayer Erlebacher points out, "…nudes made it possible for us to contemplate our sexuality in safety." And we couldn't let that sentiment sit lonely without this gem from David Salle: "If my work is pornography, so what? I don't have any moral compunction about pornography. Any feelings I have about it are purely stylistic… I don't see why it should be excluded as a serious subject." 

Looking forward to seeing you all at the opening of Naked or Nude?!


Anastasia Booth, Anon, Sophie Bottomley, Madelaine Buttini, Exotic Cancer, Amy Crow, Leah Emery, Rene Garza, Tracey Gordon, Harley & Händen, Jessie McCall, James Needham, Henri Van Noordenburg, Apollonia Saintclair, Tamara Scheiwe