Opashona Ghosh Teaches Us The Intricacies Of Erotic Art, Its Purpose, And Underlying Ideologies
- IWB Post
- July 16, 2019
Erotic illustrator Opashona Ghosh believes that before we try to develop an understanding of what is erotic art, it is integral to first understand what it is certainly not.
We are already riding the fourth wave of feminism and agency is the formula to get it all right – be it the agency to exercise one’s sexuality or the agency to express oneself through art.
However, truth be told, when it comes to women’s agency and their stake in sexual pleasure or expression, it is the last thing that we want to discuss or even pay any heed to as a country. It’s invisible, insignificant, and also inconvenient.
As an extension of the campaign ‘Cuntry’, we conducted our very first Instagram live workshop Arterotica-Untamed Strokes. During the workshop, erotic illustrator Opashona gave us a sneak peek into the intriguing world of erotic art and its intricacies.
Here are extracts from what she taught us:
Beginning the workshop with the question, “What is not erotic art,” Opashona answered it by saying, “Objectification of the female body is not erotic art.”
She then gave us visual examples to illustrate what doesn’t qualify as erotic art:
This advertisement is not erotic art.
858 Likes, 6 Comments – THINX (@shethinx) on Instagram: “Nope, no leaks here! 🙅”
This selfie is not erotic art.
1,572 Likes, 8 Comments – LESTE (@lestemagazine) on Instagram: “true or false: that’s the same damn person”
This image of a woman is not erotic art.
Barcelona! We are coming to present „New Femininity” exhibition with @badassprints at @mutuo_centro on September 13-15! . . Opening: thursday sept.13th at 19h. . featured photo by @ladyist ✨ . . . #exhibition #barcelona #spain #visualarts #mutuo #badassprints #curatedbygirls #newfemininity #cbg
637 Likes, 10 Comments – curated by GIRLS (@curatedbygirls) on Instagram: “Barcelona! We are coming to present „New Femininity” exhibition with @badassprints at @mutuo_centro…”
Once establishing what erotic art was certainly not, Opashona went on to answer, “What is erotic art?” She gave us a few examples, both classic and contemporary, to first visually demonstrate the idea of erotic art. Here are the examples that she gave:
The artwork of this Afghani German who uses textile to discuss fashion, politics, and identity.
An Exploration of the Nameless Anatomy by Zuhra Hilal #fashion inspired by #vulva #mithusanyal #hamburg #feminism #anexplorationofthenamelessanatomy #genderequality #gender #proud photo by Susanne Baumann
99 Likes, 5 Comments – Zuhra Hilal (@zuhra_hilal) on Instagram: “An Exploration of the Nameless Anatomy by Zuhra Hilal #fashion inspired by #vulva #mithusanyal…”
This Canadian artist’s artwork who uses blow up dolls to discuss femininity.
“There is ALWAYS time for a tea break!” ~ excerpt from my limited edition book “Miss Meatface on Manners, Etiquette & Entertaining” 🌹🐶❤ Under 20 copies of my book remain so it’s now or never my Meaty Lovelies! Buy your very own signed or unsigned copy at ➡ WWW.MISSMEATFACE.COM or pick one up in person at @lauraleadesign if you are in London! #missmeatface #photobook #missmeatfaceonmannersetiquetteandentertaining #kattorontophoto #etiquette #manners #limitededition #lauraleadesign #womeninphotography #selfportraiture #performancephotography #polaroidphotography #artbook #digitalphotography #womeninart #transformation #identity #genderroles #fetish #femalegaze #gender #latex #doilyfetish #hood #mask #londonartist #nostalgia #sanfranciscoartist #performanceart
334 Likes, 1 Comments – MISS MEATFACE (@missmeatface) on Instagram: “”There is ALWAYS time for a tea break!” ~ excerpt from my limited edition book “Miss Meatface on…”
During the workshop, Opashona actually used the screenshots of all the images and did it for a specific end. Through screenshots, she aimed to start a dialogue on “how in this time and day we use social media as a way to express ourselves and it allows all disciplines to come together in a celebration or investigation of what is erotic.”
Thus, Opashona recognises the true essence of erotic art wherever “erotica and fantasy are used as tools of social critic, moral disobedience and, by extension, claiming agency back to self.”
Purpose of erotic art: Claiming agency back to self
Opashona says, “Historically, erotic art has been made by and for the pleasure of men.” Thus, the first few images that she employed to show what is not erotic art are labeled so because they are “just pictures of women which are objectifying and sexualizing something which is extremely basic.” Erotic art, in its true essence, revolts against this objectification and unnecessary sexualization of the female body.
Thus, erotic art can be employed as an effective tool to claim agency back to self. Opashona says that “India is going through a major identity change right now and is having a very difficult time with sexual liberation because the way things are sexualized in India, I haven’t seen it anywhere else.”
According to her, in India, we are still looking at everything and our own selves from the male gaze and it’s time we do away with this gendered approach of looking at things. This is where the purpose of erotic art comes in which can, in so many ways, help the country navigate through these changes.
Queering the gaze in erotic art has been one of the major interests for Opashona. Like she says, “Queer is so much more than sexual preference. It’s about building a community responsibly, giving an equal platform to marginalized voices and taking risks.”
Thus, she is of the belief that Queer Theory is integral to the whole narrative as it allows you to question what you have been told and what you have grown up believing. Secondly, it allows you to reclaim your body, identity, need for pleasure in ways you want. Thirdly, it empowers you to reimagine the narrative.
She adds, “I don’t think without the use of queer theory erotic art would be where it is right now. Queer theory allows us to interrogate the oppressive codes and systems that have made us feel ashamed of our bodies, desires, and need for pleasure. It also helps us locate and question the ways in which heteronormative values have confined our experience through the enforcement of gendered roles and binaries that only serves their toxic fantasies.”
Opashona made her foray into erotic art because she couldn’t associate with what seemed or what was portrayed as sexual and empowering for women because it was all made by men. “I couldn’t identify with what they thought our body should look like and our sexuality should sound like,” she says.
She believes that it can be only with time and through one’s own journey that a personal narrative in erotic art can be developed. The process was the pretty much the same for Opashona. She shares, “I didn’t really have a linear journey.”
She adds,” If you go through my Instagram, you will come across images that are perhaps quite sexualized because that’s how I was introduced to the concept of erotic art in the first place.”
Thus, initially, she was functioning on somebody else’s idea of erotic art. Opashona adds, “It was only over time that I developed lines, textures, images, and colours which excited me and allowed me to add to my vocabulary of pleasure and body.”
If you read the manifesto that she wrote for her latest series ‘Skin’ you will get an idea of how Opashona’s idea of erotic art has evolved over the years. Here’s the manifesto:
In a time of commodiﬁcation of self, our experiences of sex, sexuality, and love have, of necessity, hardened into weary transactions. Discarding the emotional, sensual, and spiritual aspects of the “creative life force,” we don imaginary armour that benumbs the body, depersonalising it and detaching it from desire.
This tendency, to shun the feminine and construe the emotional as weak, cannot be separated from toxic heteronormative culture that is “fear[ful] of sexual desire and of human need.” A false choice – between masculinity and femininity, strength and vulnerability, survival and pleasure – has fragmented ideas of sex, sexual agency, and emotional labour, rendering us unsatisﬁed bodies.
Opashona says that for every erotic artist, it is their duty to take responsibility for their actions “because essentially you are accountable for what you draw and put out there.” She adds, “Don’t put anything out there which you are not comfortable doing personally yourself because in the end you are answerable to your work.”
Watch the workshop here:
Earlier this week, erotic art illustrator, Opashona Ghosh conducted an Instagram live erotic art workshop Arterotica – Untamed Strokes as a part of the #CUNtry campaign, presented by KamaLounge….