Radical Expression: Art & Sex In A Contemporary Abstract World

Boundaries of Eroticism Are Subjective, Ill-Defined, and Especially Dependent on Culture and Personal Taste.

Freed from the shackles of myth, religion and academia, erotic art gives way to the fury - dare I say an expression of the visceral, vital, subconscious power that we call desire. It is not unfathomable that the concept might be alien to some people, to have the most basic human desires so exposed and upfront, illustrated through paint for the world to see, but that is perhaps the reason that erotic art needs to prevail in the boundaries of a subtle society.

With my new series that explores this controversial topic, “Skin” seeks to put a new perspective on the way we envision eroticism. When I commenced on the journey, I aimed to bring a new dimension to the world of abstract nude that explores the boundaries society sets on artists, and rediscover the meaning of sex as we have been told.


One of the main reasons that erotic art is considered a separate category in itself is due to its effect on the sensibilities of the human mind. Just as any art piece takes us on a journey through the colors and expression, so does erotic art, each piece has a story to share, even if it may be a story that some people may not want to hear. We need to realize that just because some people place eroticism under scrutiny does not mean that it is a forbidden art. The way that eroticism and abstract nude is portrayed in our culture needs to be considered objectively, and only then will we realize how entirely subjective the topic is.


Eroticism around the World


"Sensual Chaos" by Matthew R. Paden

"Skin" seeks to explore the visceral human desire in the creative domain of contemporary abstract. While the art format is abstract nude, that does not make 'Skin' a series for the timid. It is a bold expression of the human form and sex, representing the many facets of our society that celebrate and keep hidden.


Believe it or not, sex is one of the natural and instinctual parts of human nature, which leads to the belief that all other boundaries are placed by society. What erotic art does is tantalize and play with those boundaries of culture and religions, testing the waters, keeping its distance, but not afraid to venture forth into a new dimension. The way that eroticism uses the viewer's imagination to do the work makes it a powerful vessel on its own, as it has been for centuries.


We cannot place distinct boundaries on eroticism and sex, and in consequence, on erotic art. Since the inception of civilization, the importance of sex can be seen in sculptures, erotic art, and scriptures from ancient times. Eroticism has, in turn, been explored, defamed, and celebrated in history. Its progression shows that the boundaries of erotic art are subjective, depending on the mindset and social era, rather than natural instincts.


“No erotic work of art is filth if it is artistically significant; it is only turned into filth through the beholder if he is filthy,” -Egon Schiele.


Consider the Renaissance period if you wish, an era that brought a change in the world dynamics. In terms of art, that meant a shifting of perspective to realism, where famous artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, delved into the dimensions and beauty of human anatomy. At that time, that was erotic art, which is appreciated until now. If you take a look at world history, you will find eroticism in many cultures and their art, whether Ancient Egyptian sculptures or artifacts were found in the lost city of Pompeii.


Ill-defined Boundaries of Erotic art


When it comes to what is acceptable in erotic art and what is not, it all boils down to culture and personal taste. With 'Skin', I challenged myself to move away from my comfort zone and venture into the world of abstract nude because it presented so many possibilities for the future of art. A different artist might have different inspirations and a unique take on the representation of sex. Similarly, what the viewers take away from the paintings depends on their perceptions. What I hope to achieve is conveying my thought and ideas through my palette, just like every artist.


“The great artist simplifies,” - Vincent Van Gogh.


Erotic art is the simplification of the concepts of human sexuality that are presented in a way that plays with your imagination and emotions. The boundaries of where erotic art begins and ends is unclear. No artist can clearly tell you what a sensual expression of sex is, and what barely constitutes as erotic art.


With my medium of spontaneous realism, the world of erotic art become more subtle yet more tantalizing. When you do not portray the subject as it is, it takes erotic art in a different direction, where the bold and vibrant colors depict the emotions of the canvas better than the still-life. I believe that eroticism is an expression of humanity’s intrigue with mystery and desire, as it always has been. The temptations of human nature provide a carnal subject for art, and there is nothing more natural.


The Conceptualization of Sex


In a society obsessed with sex, it is baffling how little representation in art and literature we have about it. While the entertainment industry flourishes on human sexuality, erotic art is still considered rare and obscene. It is time to remove these misconceptions and bring forward the real significance of erotic art in our culture, away from explicitness yet flirting with yearning. The abstract nude, or eroticism, does not take away from the modesty of the society. Instead, it delivers a deeper understanding of one of the most fundamental expressions of human life.

"Enchanted" by Matthew R. Paden

Eroticism does not necessarily mean explicitness. My first piece of the Skin series, Enchanted, delved into the subtle yet powerful portrayal of the feminine form that excites without explicitness. I wanted to represent the abstract nude away from the taboo, and bring it into the light to be celebrated.


‘Ecstasy’ follows a similar vein, expressing the emotions in a way that words cannot. One of the most beautiful and passionate things that I find about art is the way that it does not need words to bring about emotions. When I paint a portrait, I want to tell a story to the viewer when they simply look at it. Eroticism is just another beautiful expression of art that gives birth to our feelings and desires regarding sex and sexuality. Without adding to the world that you are venturing into, you cannot achieve the true purpose of your presence there. This was one of my driving principles with 'Skin', and indeed any other art projection that I wish to tackle, to add to the experience some of my personal taste, my own unique take on the subject. This is what I hope to achieve with my painting, and what I hope the audience notices.


With the intention of creating a difference in the way erotic art is perceived in our society, I hope to continue to express and celebrate the raw chemistry of human emotions and sexuality through my painting. The form that we give to art is the form it takes in history, and that is quite clear from the historic art we see around us today.


I believe that art is a formidable weapon in shaping the culture and society as we know it, and with a stroke of a brush, perhaps it can be savvier.


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