My yoga teacher advised me not to copy other artists work. The reason being it would stifle self-expression. For a while I kept a full sized copy of a nude by Modigliani in my studio. Then I noticed how it dominated my workplace and sold it. A colleague from St. Martins loaned me a large catalogue of Gustav Klimt’s erotic drawings; high class pornography or not – attending to these unusual and rare artworks has been a challenge.
Copying the work of other artists was encouraged at the Royal Academy Schools. Though I never did so until later, I believe it is helpful to consider how an artist has formed his or her vision through the use of traditional mediums such as oil paint or pencil on paper.
I didn’t slavishly emulate the original. I allowed my own expression to happen within the line work. It was still a demanding and engaging test to follow the form which Klimt had so ‘effortlessly’ arrived at. I didn’t use a grid and drew by looking at the original and feeling my way. If you were being picky and academic, there are problems with anatomical accuracy (Klimt’s errors) – however they aren’t relevant to the spirit of the work. I added a foot to the raised leg (the reproduction was cropped) and troubled over the shape of the model’s head – not strictly a copy.
This light-hearted and playful pose has been eminently captured in a drawing by Klimt; he indulged his saucy and (then) morally dubious inclinations, observing society ‘ladies’ frolicking, masturbating and copulating in front of him. Whimsical, cheeky, care-free and a finger to the moral masses, Klimt had the status and connections enabling him to do this, in spite of censorship. These studies of life as it was and hopefully always will be lived, are testimony to the nerve and spunk of their progenitors – Adele Bloch-Bauer and all. To copy such a drawing is an education in itself.
Currently a creeping moral backlash against the excesses of the web threatens to suppress the sort of free spirit behind these works and others like them. Art celebrates humanity and there will always be cases where the erotic can be categorised with pornography. If as securocrats and governments imply, ‘morally degrading statements’ are to be shooed out of existence, then it is the thin end of an enormous wedge of control.
In 2014 there was a ‘mass face sitting’ at Westminster to protest against new laws of censorship limiting the publication of certain types of pornography. These newly construed laws originate from the European parliament; no doubt they are designed to reduce some types of web porn but does this mean we are no longer allowed to listen to the Monty Python refrain ‘Sit on my face and tell me that you love me’ – because it might lead people to suffocate in a declaration of love?
I recall the tattoo artist Alex Binnie kicking up a stink over censorship of some men involved in consensual sado-masochism during the 90s. They were reprimanded for nailing their genitals to tables etc. What people choose to do with themselves in private is their own business; though there is perhaps a case for not repairing them out of public funds (if they harm themselves excessively). 1984 was decades ago, it seems Orwell might have got his time frame a bit wrong – but the Winston in everyone is out there and it looks as though Big Brother (and Sister) are watching.
Photo of Alex Binnie by John Chase
Copy of Klimt’s Erotic Drawing by Alan Dedman can be purchased for £250.00 gbp. Use the secure PayPal button below if you wish to do so.