Nudes reveal more about the artist than their naked subjects—at least, it’s fun to pretend this. Consider FN Souza’s The Traders. Four figures stand in a line, touching each other intimately. The sexual organs are well-defined, the faces are mangled beyond recognition. Was Souza feeling cynical when he painted this? Did he see sex as just another transaction? Comparatively, the sex lives of his contemporaries like KH Ara and Badri Narayan were either idyllic (Ara) or spiritual (Narayan). Contemporary artists too bare current preoccupations plainly with nudes. The naked women from Shakuntala Kulkarni’s 2007 series of paintings have an air of cosiness to them; they look less like they’re trying to turn you on, and more like they wandered out of the shower to look for a towel, caught sight of themselves in the mirror and burst out into full-bellied laughter. As a feminist, Kulkarni has no interest in using skin-show to titillate her viewers. But not all nudity is political. In Dibin Thilakan’s case, it feels merely like the untamed lushness of Kerala travelled into the veins of his carefree lovers. His nudes are beautifully realistic but placed in impossible, Kama Sutra-like positions or in Edenic settings. Look through our gallery of modern and contemporary art and tell us in the comments if these bodies reveal something of the minds from which they have sprung.
Love Badri’s work
Love the pop up
And it’s interesting how we are have been socially conditioned to accept the public stripping down of women; we are far more comfortable with the female nude than the male. To me, nudes are much more about vulnerability than titillation. Exposure as the currency of power?
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