One hundred artists paint non-ironical nudes for large yet intimate group show at Charlie Smith

By Mark Sheerin | 10 July 2012
Oil painting of a nude and pregnant woman
Greg Rook, Untitled (6 Months) (2011)© Greg Rook
Exhibition: THE PERFECT NUDE  - 100 ARTISTS PAINT THE NUDE, Charlie Smith, London, until July 28 2012

With almost 100 artists taking part, group shows don’t come much larger than The Perfect Nude. But given that the brief was to represent a naked body, visitors can expect intimacy on a grand scale.

Phillip Allen and Dan Coombs have stipulated that their fellow painters approach their out of vogue subject matter “sincerely and without irony”. But something about the encounter with bare flesh can only provoke an honest response. Call it the shock of the nude.

Drawing and painting nudes was of course very central to an art school training once upon a time. It is only in recent decades that fine art courses have placed more emphasis on ideas than observation. As a result, many of the painters in this show will be well outside their comfort zone.

Not only does the brief call for a close encounter with a model, it also asks the many painters here to engage with a vast and fundamental tradition of western art. Both confrontations call for a certain amount of courage and resolve.

“The distinction between the naked and the nude is like the difference between the represented and the real,” says Coombs. “The nude body I take as the naked body in a state of representation.

"Either through being posed or painted, the nude is never fully naked – the body has something projected on to it, it is made to stand for something.”

It seems there is more to painting a nude than meets the eye. Perhaps at this point in art history it is impossible to get away from those pesky ideas learned in school.

  • Open Wednesday-Saturday 11am-6pm. Admission free.

More pictures:

Semi abstract oil painting of a reclining woman reading
Dan Coombs, Woman Reading (2011)© Dan Coombs
Oil painting of a pair of buttocks and thighs
Damien Meade, Immense Fame and Success (2011)© Damien Meade
Red oil painting of a nude man
Sam Herbert, Sans Souci (2011)© Sam Herbert
Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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