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Oooh…It’s naughty but nice

Jason discusses erotic art, and invites you all to a private viewing of the Parental Guidance exhibition at Artzu…

Published on September 15th 2006.

Oooh…It’s naughty but nice

Visit any Museum or city Art Gallery and you’ll find beautiful paintings of scantily clad men and women, standing around or lying about in some dramatic scene. Bare breasts abound, bare bottoms protrude; overtly muscular naked men stand proud with their genitals on display for the world to see (although in most of these pieces of artwork it looks like the model ‘sat’ on a very cold day).

There’s groups of people lying together naked, even embracing and kissing. We’ve seen these paintings since our teachers first took us on a day trip to our local museum. We’ve grown up with them. Yet nowadays, if a photograph or painting surfaces that’s in a similar vain it’s more often than not seen as pornographic.

I remember in the nineties when a famous drink company’s billboard campaign was banned for being too ‘homoerotic’, and the Sophie Dahl campaign for Yves Saint-Laurent was banned after complaints in the UK. And let’s not forget the fuzz that surrounded Madonna’s ‘Sex’ book. Come on, I was one of the people that queued around the block to buy a copy, and frankly it is nowhere near pornographic. It does what it says on the cover. It is erotica.

While pornography popularly focuses on unadorned and unemotional lusts and the explicit depiction of sexual acts, erotica tends to define material with a higher emotional content, the development of place, character and story line, or of an overall artistic theme. However, such distinctions are necessarily subjective and may say more about the critic's own tastes on erotic material than the artistic and other attributes of the material itself.

In the motion picture sense, soft-core pornography (soft porn) is a similar kind of commercial art form that resides in the area between erotica and hardcore pornography, although erotica, as a type of fine art, may also be highly sexually explicit. The difference between erotica and pornography is an aesthetic division, usually dependent on moral philosophy, religious dogma, or personal outlook.

At present, many legal jurisdictions maintain laws regulating the availability of expressions deemed pornographic (although that term almost never appears in legal texts), arguably to maintain a level of comfort or safety for a majority of citizens.

Some believe defining eroticism may be difficult since perceptions of what is erotic fluctuate. For example, a voluptuous nude painting by Peter Paul Rubens could have been considered erotic or pornographic when it was created for a private patron in the 17th century. Similarly in the United Kingdom and United States, D. H. Lawrence's sexually explicit novel Lady Chatterley's Lover was considered obscene and unfit for publication and circulation in many nations thirty years after it was completed in 1928, but may now be part of standard literary school texts in some areas. In a different context, a sculpture of a phallus in Africa may be considered a traditional symbol of potency though not overtly erotic.

Being the little mischievous devil I am, I had an idea last year. Why not put on an exhibition of erotic art? A group exhibition of paintings, photography and sculpture inspired by the theme of erotica?! So I passed the idea by various artists who all came back to me with beautifully brilliant ideas and then I began my market research.

I asked, ‘Would you attend a Private View which dealt with the theme of Erotica?’. And do you know what I discovered? I discovered that not only did people want to attend in great numbers, record breaking numbers I might add, they were willing to travel the length and breadth of the country to do so! Within days of the e-flyer going out announcing the upcoming exhibition, we were inundated with people wanting to jump the gun and get on the guest list. It soon became clear that we were going to be so busy that I had to close the RSVP list. Now, these weren’t middle aged men in trench coats, with a briefcase full of porn and a lifetime subscription to every cable adult channel available to man, oh no, these were respectable men and women who to put it plainly were ‘excited’ by this provocative exhibition. Don’t you just love being British!

And that was that, it was obvious that the exhibition was going to be a roaring success and perhaps a talking point for months to come. Or so I thought. Those of you who’ve followed my column over the months know better. And for those of you that haven’t, tut, tut, to cut a long story short, the gallery closed and with it I had to put the show on hold.

But you can’t keep a good dog down, and in my case you can’t keep a mischievous little devil down, because this month sees the opening of the ‘Parental Guidance’ exhibition at the Artzu Gallery on Great Ancoat’s Street in Manchester’s thriving Northern Quarter.

The Private View is on Thursday 28th September. Everyone is once again welcome to come along and view the works on display. If you’d like to attend, my suggestion to you would be to get emailing now because once again the response has been tremendous! To receive a personal invitation you’ll need to email me with your postal address and contact number.

Once again, it will be a group exhibition of paintings, photography, sculpture and performance that will titillate, arouse and possibly shock; but certainly stimulate the senses!

Artists showing work on the evening among others include, the controversial photographic and digital artist James Lightbown, pop artist Judith Mellor, mosaic artist Ed Chapman, the pornography inspired artist Phillip Horrocks and many more!

Champagne and canapés will be served from 6.30pm by the lovely sponsors ‘Shoop Promotions’.

So I hope to see you there. I’m really looking forward to hearing your comments because this show is well overdue. I especially hope that those of you out there who sent RSVPs in the hope of attending the original show will come along to this one. It runs until the 12th October, so you have plenty of time if you’re unable to make it to the Private View.

Jason Selby

Warning: Please be aware that some of the artwork on show will be of an explicit nature and therefore under 18 year olds must be accompanied by an adult.

‘Parental Guidance’ Private View
Date: Thursday 28th September
Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Click here to RSVP. (Please include contact telephone number)
Tel: 0161 228 3001

The Artzu Gallery,
Virginia House,
5 Great Ancoats Street,
Northern Quarter,
M4 5AD

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