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Art Erotica raises brows in MayfairLatest News
Fri 20 Jan, 2012.
Passers-by often stopped to look; sometimes amused, they smiled, usually sheepishly. Sometimes a jaw visibly dropped, even if just a little. Sometimes a phone or camera emerged from a pocket and snaps were taken through the front windows. Occasionally, an offended pedestrian on this most prestigious of streets in Mayfair’s gallery district would march through the doors of The Gallery in Cork Street and complain about the outrageous and offensive objects that, apparently, had ravaged the innocence of an unsuspecting outside world.
Complaints focused on the sculpture by Jas Davidson, Orc 3, and the occasion was the setting up of the first Art Erotica exhibition. This was during the day on Tuesday and Wednesday, 17 and 18 January, and the exhibition wasn’t even open; the private view was scheduled for 19:00 on the evening of 18 January.
Attention-grabbing art is normally desirable in the world of galleries and collectors, and Art Erotica contains some good examples. Apart from the two Orc sculptures, the most arresting work that appealed to us at SomethingDark were Nancy Farmer’s two immaculately executed, gold-leaf-winged drawings of fairies performing an all-but-exhaustive range of sexual acts with each other. Judging from their facial expressions, said fairies are very clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves – and why shouldn’t they be? The Fairy Ring bestows new meaning upon the popular mythology of dancing fairies as thirteen males of the species delight each other in a flying circular orgy. The larger Fornicating Fairies offers more for the heterosexual and lesbian viewer; it was this latter piece that won the judges’ first prize of £1,500.
The theme that sex and eroticism are the very fabric of the natural order found expression in the work of another artist whose exhibited work we liked a great deal: Vulnerability in the Landscape by Lindi Kirwin. Here, the elemental spirit of desire is found manifesting in the organic growth of nature, in twisting forms resembling trees. A pair of handcuffs and a red, stiletto-heeled shoe hang almost carelessly from branch-like protuberances, perhaps indicating our relatively transient attempts to harness the forces of the erotic.
Another exhibition favourite is Portrait of Ms Ruby May by Leena McCall, a painting of indefinable allure. It is a portrait of a woman wearing a hat; her breasts exposed and joined by a nipple piercing, clamps and chain, she is smoking a pipe. Her cool gaze back at the viewer tells us she is satisfied with who she is. The palette is subdued, dark; for us, it somehow evokes an impossible conjoining of Rembrandt and Man Ray. This piece was awarded the judges’ runner-up prize.
Of an entirely different, elusive allure is David Hensel’s drawing, Fragrance, which won the judges’ framing prize. If there is a message here, it is that eroticism can lead to unusual attractions, some of which may involve pain; perhaps pain may itself prove to be an attraction, as the man who firmly embraces a spiny, flowering cactus of his own height, the image awash with red, suggests.
The construction and sculpture categories present a wealth of diversity. Sexual Baggage, by Ruth Richards-Hill, is a poignantly witty reminder that beauty and desire can literally be locked up by none other than ourselves, here represented by a series of three padlocks depicted sealing the lips of a vagina with appropriately accommodating genital piercings. The image is encased in the leather and metal of a small handbag. Georgina Paton’s Breaking Free From the Ropes of Life’s Corset delivers a similar message, stating that “prison bars” are erected by society and that, even after conscious efforts have been made for freedom, can still result in a lingering sexual repression that leaves a mark on our psyche, akin to a restrictive corset that leaves its marks on the skin long after being removed. Cream Delight by Chris Francis is another representation of femininity, but, unlike the above-mentioned pieces, apparently liberated.
Television and radio presenter, model, artist and Art Erotica private view MC, Gemma Hadley, had three pieces on show. Dig for Victory and Hello Boys were two of our exhibition favourites for their sociopolitical comment. The former alludes to the link between masculine sex and traditional male power in the workplace by turning the equation around; the latter draws our attention to that same power running rampant in the form of war. Thus does the theme of conquest also link the two pieces.
Look Dick, See Jane Blow It by Chris Shaw Hughes is an innovative piece that appears to be nothing but a charcoal grey–black sheet of paper until viewed at particularly advantageous angles; then, all is revealed. This work attracted the Directors’ Purchase Prize.
Art Erotica opened to the public yesterday; the private view the night before was a capacity event and was introduced by the guest of honour, the art critic, art historian and poet, Edward Lucie-Smith. A series of talks and discussions on subjects relevant to the theme of erotica has been organised around the exhibition and will take place next door to the Art Erotica venue, downstairs at Gallery 27.
The exhibition is open daily through to Friday 27 January; information on the full programme of events is available on the Art Erotica website.
SomethingDark webMagazine is one of the Art Erotica exhibition’s major sponsors.
Text copyright © SomethingDark 2012. Images copyright © Jas Davidson, Nancy Farmer, Lindi Kirwin, Leena McCall, David Hensel, Ruth Richards-Hill, Georgina Paton, Chris Francis, Gemma Hadley, Chris Shaw Hughes, and Art Erotica 2012. All rights reserved.