When is something Erotic?
Last Updated on Monday, 21 January 2013 12:30
My daughter looked at the Blue Valentine images and said: "They’re not that erotic." Implying that the title ‘erotic water drawings’ create an expectation that does not get fulfilled by the images on show. I promptly took the word out of the title of the invitation, since I would like to be honest in my dealings with others. Yet all the while knowing that most people would not read the heading again, and that the initial connotation of ‘erotic’ would stick.
So I remain devious in some sense, but not entirely - since to me the images are undoubtedly erotic, and I want viewers to approach the work with the knowledge of my erotic intention. Paradoxically, I also want them to be subtly conscious of an editing process, of something hidden - of course I am not exhibiting the most explicit or raunchy images amongst the hundreds of water drawings that I have photographed - because that would not leave much to the imagination, which would deny the viewer the possibility of entering into an erotic experience.
Eros is a verb - unlike the noun of pornography - it demands an act of imagination, without which nothing is erotic, and within which everything becomes erotic. Ask any lover, although they might not tell you in so many words. Eros and language have an uncomfortable fit, but discomfort suits Eros very well - as high heels, corsets, tattoos and piercings confirm.
Eros never shows you everything, but is master at hints and innuendo. It swops languages without telling you, so that an Afrikaans bird and an English cat can become erotic, but remain mundane in any other language. A title can hint at something not visible in an image, allowing only the initiated reader into its secret erogenous zone. Eros wants you to be in pursuit of its possibility before it will alight in your lap.
Reading and painting are both deeply erotic activities because they demand imagination. As you read this, your knowledge of drawing, of the slow wet act of painting with water, of the solitude you imagine around the dipped brush, your recognition of a feeling in the artist across the distance of time; your memory of your own vivid fantasies and of the pull your skin exerts on your nervous system at such times, all these contain the possibility of entering Eros.
Really looking - the secret skill of art lovers - is also a way into desire. Ambiguities of stain and line that both resemble something else and remain just ink on paper demand leaps of imagination that continue to delight at every viewing. Which is what I wish for you, my dear reader and viewer - delight and desire - an experience of erotic water drawings which could not exist as such without your consensual collaboration, for which I am most grateful.
The exhibition opened for one day at the Thompson's gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Saturday 25 February 2012. The funds raised went towards the AFDA school fees of Bennett Madzie, then a first year Animation student. Bennett graduated in 2014 with a degree in sound design, and is currently doing his masters.
An online collection of all the prints can be viewed at the Blue Valentines Catalogue.