ART & PAINTING PHILOSOPHY

Painting today often forgets that beauty and elegance still play an important role in creating art, particularly when social comment is the subject. Goya’s political etchings of the Spanish church during the inquisition days were all at once horrifying, penetrating and beautiful. Our concept of beauty is constantly changing, influenced by contemporary ideas and social restrictions. Artists have a responsibility to redirect the more restrictive misdirections and censorships imposed, to constantly redesign our concepts of beauty towards elegance and subtlety, towards the role of ‘pleasure’ as one of it’s intended impacts.

During recent years the impact of religion on art in most cultures, Christian, Moslem, etc, has censored nudity and sensuality in art. This is in spite of our most primitive art being redolent with beautiful carvings of nudity, fertility and relationship, continuing through all civilisations including Egyptian, Mayan, Greek, Roman, and endemic within our world’s famous old churches and cities that still display thousands of elegant nudes and active bodies of the time in the form of sculpture and paintings (eg: Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, Rome’s St Peters, the Hindu temples at Khajuhro, India, the traditional goddesses of Bali and Thailand, India, Cambodia, etc). Today galleries and city authorities generally find it difficult to display nudity because conservative ‘politically correct’ thinking has us treating nudity and sensuality as ‘slightly distasteful and not nice’, partly because that role has been captured as a selling tool by the media with its often undignified magazines, TV ads and seductive ‘pop star’ video clips.

The inappropriate 2008 censorship controversy caused by NSW police seizing art images from a well respected gallery by internationally acclaimed artist Bill Henson is an example of the pholosophy I have attempted to communicate herein. Henson's images indeed incorporate pubescent nudity; however, they are sensitive art images interpreting the huge indecisive fragility of teenage young people aware of conflicting adult thoughts and needs impacting on their rapidly changing known childhood. Henson's nude imagery is confronting but definitely not sexual or pornographic. Society often confuses sexual imagery and natural nudity. Sexual imagery involving children is definitely indefensible, but non-sexual imagery of all age groups and even some sexual imagery of adults is, in my opinion, part of the rich tapestry of human experience and imagination. The international outrage the police have generated amongst educated art patrons and artists will undoubtedly defeat this embarassingly insensitive censorship case. I rarely sketch, paint or sculpt children, but my large Hornsby bronze water feature incorporates a nude child with a nude mother surrounded a proliferation of nude fauna, and noone has ever suggested it is distasteful in the last fifteen years of public display. However, particularly distressing is the tendency of our society to sexualise children, a terrifying and immature example of the polarity of sexual values described above; current society being rightly horrified at paedophilia and underage sexual molestation, but still tolerating a marketing industry persuading their children to project a seductivity and maturity far beyond their ability to either handle or understand. Our society is surely also mistaken to allow the showing of films depicting extreme violence whilst banning openly nude affectionate scenes of two people enjoying lovemaking in a non violent caring way.

Much of our protest-based art today emphasises the ugliness, thus becoming to me a protest illustration or cartoon rather than creative painting. My work is most often based on an environmental or social theme, sometimes just the power and beauty of nature, sometimes sensuality, but the end result still strives for elegance, beauty and thoughtful complexity as an intrinsic part of the finished painting, drawing or sculpture.

Finally, my unbounded admiration for the subtle beauty of Australia and its environment is dominant in my life, perhaps even genetically enhanced with time as two of my direct ancestors, John Nichols and Anne Pugh, arrived on the ship "Scarborough" with Australia's "First Fleet" in 1788. Susanna Philp, the grandaughter of these two quite professional criminals, married the first "Cusack" to arrive in Australia, Nicholas (of Irish descent). Whilst I have travelled the world extensively, Australia remains my greatest love, influence and pride.
(Victor Cusack – 2008).