SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
LACK OF DEPICTION OF MALE GENITALS IN ART
The Subtle aspect of Fine Arts
Different cultures carry different attitudes towards Art and different attitudes in Art are reflective of their approach to sense and sensibility. Cultures like India, Africa and Japan have heavy emphasis on depiction of Male nudity in their Art forms but the Judeo-Christian-Muslim attitudes were totally different from other societies. The male genital is hardly shown in European tradition and when it is shown in some sculpture, there is no emphasis on the genital itself. It is either erased or shown in a very minor and insignificant way. Sir Kenneth Clarke discusses this extensively in his study of the nude in art history. Similarly in other traditions. One odd view we see all the time is boys urinating water in form of fountains spread all over ancient Europe. Entering museums and exiting from them, we find this urination process a fun tactic for those people. Similarly drinking water fountains have similar antecedents, which to our aesthetic is not acceptable at all.
Sexual display in Western Art is a more modern phenomena and when you enter Tate Gallery London and you see huge portraits of sexual nature, it is easy to get embarrassed or rude shock at such vulgar displays. Similar display can be seen in Shakir Ali Museum too. But vulgarity is now no longer a neutral or passive word. Vulgarity is a set of choices related to morals and ethics and the line between good and bad has not only diminished but is erased in the modern scenario of times.
In Islamic culture where artists depicted everything, again the emphasis has never been on male genitals. We hardly see their depiction except perhaps in TIB or medical treatises. Whereas female nudity has been depicted in Pakistani Art, male nudity has never been the point. Sadequain became an exception with his study of male female poses of sexual nature, and he was heavily criticized for those portrayals. Another male nude artist is Ms Lala Hayat, who has held exhibitions of her male nude subjects. One of her big fans was Asad Salahuddin. But even Lala does not draw the genitals in her nude sketches. There are aesthetic restraints in our culture and the same are followed not merely by compulsion but also as an act of tradition, and social norms. Internalized society is the conscience of the times.