Inappropriate Nudity

Art Life , Exhibitions Oct 31, 2014 No Comments

From Sharne Wolff

In the artist video that accompanies his first solo exhibition, artist Harley Oliver says that his work is about the contemporary “prudishness” around nudity. When Oliver grew up in the 1960s, being naked was simply “no big deal”. No doubt many readers from the same generation nodding their heads right now. Since earning his fine arts degree in London several decades ago, Oliver, now a full time artist, has worked as a filmmaker and television producer with success making documentaries for National Geographic and The Discovery Channel.


In Inappropriate Nudity Oliver’s suite of paintings on linen depict mostly women. Although the show is sprinkled with history’s famous names like Queen Victoria and Olympia represented au naturel, Oliver’s Red Carpet and Soap Star bring the work into the present day by picturing red carpet appearances by women at events such as movie premieres and football award presentations. Finding such events “appalling” and too much like “meat markets” Oliver’s subjects are portrayed nude with paper bag heads. Despite the potential for victimisation, the artist intends the women to be shown as strong and in control. The paper bag device, critical of both media and the universal audience, exposes the idea that women are being evaluated on body image alone – recalling Cate Blanchett’s now famous animated GIF where she called out red carpet sexism with the statement, “Do you do that to the guys?” [after a TV camera scanned her body at the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards]. This show also brings us back to that other lingering question – can a man make feminist art?

Until November 22
Stanley Street Gallery</a, Darlinghurst
Pic: Harley Oliver, Resistance, 2014. Oil on linen, 76 x 91cm. Courtesy the artist and Stanley Street Gallery.

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Sharne Wolff

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