Raw Nakedness

30 September, 2008

As I cycled home the other day, battling with the buses and taxis on the Westminster Bridge Road roundabout I was confronted by a new billboard advert for Skin Bliss by Imperial Leather. I was somewhat taken aback as the advert had a completely nude woman on it. Her arms were positioned in the right places and a strategic use of shadows meant that you could not see any of her bits, but there she was, full length and naked.

Skin Bliss Advert

Skin Bliss Advert

The use of the nude as an art form has a long history. From rock art to Lucien Freud’s Big Sue, [Benefits Supervisor Sleeping] artists have used the nude to explore an expression of form. We are used to seeing nudity in galleries and museums. So why do I find a naked woman on a billboard so unsettling? It is perhaps because it is not a nude. By that I mean that a nude is often thought of as an idealised expression of the naked human body. The naked woman in the Skin Bliss advert is not to my mind idealised. There is no joy or exuberance in the picture. No celebration of the female form. Her body is bent to make the shadows fall in the right place, hunched shoulders, an unnatural tilt of the head and ridiculously positioned arms and hands reduce the model to a mannequin. The image is ugly and perhaps that is what disturbs me more than the model’s nakedness. This isn’t nudity, it is raw nakedness.

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