Porn versus eroticism. It remains one of the intriguing themes of aesthetics, after all the field of philosophy in which questions are asked about the possibility of a discussion about an art work’s quality and the criteria to be used.
My suggestion for such a ‘measure’: Involved distance.
If ‘involved distance’ is at stake in a work of art, then the observer’s loses all ‘lust’ in the nudity he is being exposed to. At that moment the nude is an artistic portrayal which dominates his gaze. It is ‘art’ that he now studies – a nude, not someone naked.
Sine ira et studio, albeit with in the background a consciousness of his real lust that is related to the ‘object’ depicted. After all, one is a Mensch.
Recently I emigrated this drawing from the ancestral home which, by now, has been abandoned by my mother. The painter and psychiatrist J.H. Plokker once made it during his studies at The Art Academy. That context per se more or less guarantees an image that is aloof.
Both the artist who sketched her – having pulled up his chair to sit in the circle of his fellow students around what must have been a beautiful woman – and those who much later are observing the drawing, are well aware that it was a ‘model’ that is portrayed.
A neutral model, which these academy students were allowed only to watch. Their student’s clinical eye vouched for the accuracy of what would also become a clinical drawing. After all, they were given marks for it. So it was not a model like the many women with whom – after the work was done – the painter Delacroix said to have ‘tinkered’ regularly. Something you may indeed recognize in those gorgeous women in his paintings.
Perhaps Delacroix also gave these models marks, both as a model and as his bed mate. He may even have given marks to himself for sexual energy – his Journal is radiating smugness whenever he is reporting his little escapades.
Delacroix was indeed a great painter, though, evidenced by the fact that despite his carnal involvement with his models, precisely at the moment of depicting them he could simply forget his cock and use only his eyes to navigate brush and paint.
Curiously nonetheless: one’s gaze seems to become hornier when it begins to concentrate on the particulars of such an image. Each person has his or her fetishes, those details for which the eye is always on the look out, even in an image that shows you a nude in toto. That fetish detail then tends to become… naked.
Yet, even while zooming in on such details an aesthetic eye remains a possibility, now however the ‘arty’ gaze is seriously in need of self-control.
Plokker’s rump in detail:
Once the painter had escaped the shackles of The Academy, there arose brilliant watercolours, usually typified by that ‘involved distance’. Unmistakably the artist must have had deep feelings for what he portrayed, at the same time however managing to catch what he had in view in a clear objectivity.
Observe how he managed to express an almost carnal adoration of light and shade – a love shared with most painters. Yet, at the same time, he is playing a clinical little game with the eye of the beholder.
The first impression here is one of a world out of joint, walls and gates faltering and skewed. Only after some study you find that those delicate shadows have tripped your senses, they show you something that is not there. The little town is indeed ‘in steady state’.
Plokker at his best may be seen in this oil painting of an Indian on horseback, the animal standing in a freezing cold night with snow on the ground, the man his keen eye searching for something in the distance – perhaps a prey.
Girly puppy love for horses – their first lust of the flesh. Maybe she ‘sees’ the horse’s cheeks, but far more so her prince on top of it and that sweet animal’s face with the beautiful eyes. To overcome her confusion, the girl will focus on brushing the horse’s manes and hide. As if it is her own hair with which she is, daily, also occupied for such a long time.
We adults see in Plokker’s horse first of all his art, consisting in the suggestion of a real horse’s body which, with brush and paint, he made appear so well that you want to stroke its ass. So well, that you can almost feel the breath, steaming in the cold air, caress your cheek.
Admittedly Plokker’s horse ass cannot compare with the beautiful black rump of his black model, at least not in my eyes. But, then, I’m not a bestialist.
And also admittedly: Sometimes, while observing her curves on that drawing I tend to lose sight of ars longa, surrendering myself to vita brevis.
Sierksma, January 2017