© Bernard Poulin Studios - Ateliers Bernard Poulin - 2012
Bernard Aimé Poulin
Nude vs Naked
Nudity, as it relates to the arts, is best defined as a state of naturalness - that which speaks most eloquently to who and what we are as a human species. Nakedness, on the other hand, is not a state of being. And when not linked with ablutions, it is rather an uncomfortable result of being undressed, of being unclothed, revealed or vulnerable. Nakedness, as a concept, does not exist in the visual arts unless it represents that discomfort and inability to be natural.
But what is it which needs representation in the human body? Why represent it at all? Or, should I say. . . Why should it not be?
To visual artists, that which is complex must be confronted - and that includes the rather incredible vessel which holds who we are together. What is simple, lowest common denominator or simplistic is never attractive to truly creative types, since anything easy fails to pose questions, permit analysis or to allow discovery about anything. In other words what is simple and easy causes discouragement and ignorance through the dissolving of our innate human curiosity and wonder. And without curiosity and wonder we are slated to become what all other creatures are slowly becoming - extinct.
Humans are complex and visual artists love to be challenged - to undertake difficult problems, even though they may never be solved. And the physical human form, whatever the gender or age, is in and of itself a miracle in need of awe. It is an impossible to synthetically replicate entity - despite all scientific and science fiction efforts in that direction. And because of this extraordinariness, the nude form remains to this day the most attractive and most challenging subject to be rendered.
Even more confounding is that the nude human form, devoid of any cultural or moralistic mask, represents not only its own unique physical existence, but also elements of universal human physicality. And if matters were not complex enough, this representation of the unique and universal also embodies the mental, psychological and emotional components of humanity as well. And this is what is most fascinating about the nude human body. It is symbolic of the greatest mysteries of creation by the God of us all.
In the visual arts, and increasingly in performance and theatrical arts, human anatomy is rendered and displayed in order to present the full gamut of complexity which stirs us into wanting to know and understand all of the above. And this impossible quest, visual and performance artists undertake, despite knowing and understanding that the ultimate goal of “knowing” will never be achieved.
In the rendering of the nude, there is also a linked academic component. Since the beginning of time, visual artists have studied the human form to learn and perfect their drawing skills and the capacity to interpret subliminality and symbolic resonance. From time immemorial, painters and sculptors have strived to represent what the body “holds” without as well as within. They do this in order to extricate that secret elixir to genius and mastery - seemingly locked away in such a deceptively soft shell of tissue and sinew. To draw the human form accurately means that you are one step closer to drawing and painting and sculpting it incredibly and powerfully.
In essence, the masterfully rendered body is not only a source of physical but also of universal mental and emotional beauty. Whether it speaks to Botticelli’s wondrous Birth of Venus or Picasso’s horrendous war emotions in La Guernica, the nude figure never ceases to be a source of valuable information to us all.
Psychiatrists and psychologists purport to interpret that which the mind and heart of an individual says. The visual artist, in his or her own way, does the same through a line by line, hatch by cross-hatch study of the “body language” of humanity. Why? Because, just maybe, the intricate secrets of the physical vessel itself might, just might, speak to us of the rest that is available for us to know. . .
Without this continued study and the renderings which speak to us - even if only symbolically - we will never discover who we were, who we are and possibly might one day be . . . again.
I would think this quest to draw and paint the elusive nude be continued, lest we fail to ever comprehend what is becoming of us - during these rather bizarre body-phobic and at the same time body obsessed times. . . Now, more than ever, knowing the difference between nude and naked is crucial.
La nudité vs le tout nu
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