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The Male Gaze

I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of artist as voyeur . We artists intently observe the world around us and attempt to represent it in our work . I’ve also been interested since my college days in the way the female form has been used in western art throughout the centuries. There’s been a long history of male artists presenting the female nude for the delectation of the ( usually ) male viewer , often in the form of some myth or Biblical morality tale . Since the Renaissance , numerous bearded elders , randy gods , brave heroes and noble warriors have been depicted , ogling, molesting and assaulting helpless nubile maidens in paintings on the walls of Western grand houses and galleries . An extension of the theme has been the long tradition , continued up to the present day , of the nude, passive , female being observed , coquettish and winsome at her ‘toilet ‘ or in her master’s harem ( or similar ). The common thread of so many of these works is an implied female deference and acceptance of the male gaze .

Now , I’m a heterosexual male and enjoy looking at females as much as the next middle aged codger , but I hope , in my life studies that I portray my female models as believable , vibrant people , who sometimes happen to be naked , not as acquiescent , passive ,’ objects ‘ to be ogled .

In this painting I’ve attempted to explore some of these ruminations . I’ve experimented in it with the notion of the male gaze , by placing a self-portrait centre stage , making myself clearly complicit in any voyeurism , while also doffing my paint-splattered cap to the traditional theme of Venus at her mirror .

A quote exploring notions of nakedness and nudity from the late , great and much lamented John Berger might be a good way to round up my ramblings :

To be naked is to be oneself.
To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognised for oneself.”

The Male gaze – Self-portrait with Sorcha

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