henson's is a dark and dangerous world; like seeing our own world reflected in a dark and smudged mirror. his world is a noir urban landscape where nocturnal creaters resembling people indulge in recognisable elements of our society (and more often than not its dark underbelly such as teen alcoholism, the waste of consumerism and almost-anorexic bodies). these elements litter this space, placing it somewhere between reality and distopia. some of them are so intense they are post-apocalyptic looking (such as the bright yellow/orange skies of untitled 2000/2003)
his spaces are not the only ambiguities. his inhabitants are androgynes, which may bear the markings of sex we know instinctively, but not with the certain identity we place on it. for example untitled 2000/2001 a girl wears a slip dress that resembles a man's singlet, giving her a masculinism that obscures her sex.
his use of male subjects is interesting. in these works his boys are more object, more props, than subject matter. you can't even see their faces, just the thiness of their bodies. they are either shadowed and engulfed in black or shapes around which the arms of girls dangle. -- from
POLITICIANS should keep out of art. Kevin Rudd all but ruined his new-found cachet with the artistic community last week by declaring that photographer Bill Henson's work was "revolting". -- Annabel Crabb
"As members of the Creative Stream of the Australia 2020 Summit, we wish to express our dismay at the police raid on Bill Henson's recent Sydney exhibition, the allegations that he is a child pornographer, and the subsequent reports that he and others may be charged with obscenity.
"The potential prosecution of one of our most respected artists is no way to build a Creative Australia, and does untold damage to our cultural reputation."
"The public debate prompted by the Henson exhibition is welcome and important. We need to discuss the ethics of art and the issues that it raises."
"The work itself is not pornographic, even though it includes depictions of naked human beings. It is more justly seen in a tradition of the nude in art that stretches back to the ancient Greeks, and which includes painters such as Caravaggio and Michelangelo."-- a letter from 2020 Summit Creative Stream members
soph thinks some people have had kneejerk reactions.
I'm sorry Mr Rudd, but "I find these outrageous" and "Kids should be allowed to be kids" just isn't going to cut it. The fact is, kids these days aren't just allowed to be kids, giving way to the drifting, haunted figures in Henson's work. Banning an art exhibition is not going to change that.
angel80 looks at the controversy through a feminist frame.
in Shakespeare's day the representation of "children" in a "sexualised context" hadn't yet been thought of. Girls were married off, before puberty even - there was so much housework to do back then - and what happened to them after that was not a matter for public concern.
melbourneartcritic says it makes Australians look like philistines.
I don’t know what they hope to achieve this time as Bill Henson’s career is well established, but the price of his photographs is sure to rise with the increased controversy. It will also increase the long held reputation of Australia being a country of prudish philistines.
But MK on A Western Heart is less sympathetic about those who support Henson.
In previous times, these slimeballs would be tarred and feathered before being turfed out of town.
boudist says taking the photos was obviously a provocative thing to do.
The images are creepy. And anything that exploits or sexualises children is repellent. Regardless, the work has succeeded in a way much of the best art does. It's provoked an emotional reaction, got people talking and asked more questions than it answers.
A slender young girl, naked, is held from behind by a naked young man - it's a Bill Henson photograph perhaps not unlike those that have provoked the current storm of controversy. But this photograph is 15 years old and was part of an exhibition sanctioned by the Federal Government.
As politicians of both major parties criticised Henson's work in the past few days, it emerged that some of the artist's photographs of naked adolescents featured in a touring exhibition that was partly funded by the previous government.
The Strange Cargo exhibition was curated by the Newcastle Region Art Gallery collection, and toured through regional Australia over the past two years. It aimed to showcase contemporary Australian art, and included four works by Henson.
One features a naked young girl in a gloomy light. She is held by a young man from behind while another young female holds one of her legs.
Bill Henson’s nocturnal theatre is unnerving. Adolescent subjects; naked, vulnerable and oblivious to our gaze, inhabit the twilight spaces of outer suburbs. The vacant lot found on the urban fringe is the natural landscape for Henson’s cast of adolescents and as such is a potent trope for the interstices of adolescence, a time caught between the innocence of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. Velvety shadows and dark skies highlight the speculative capacity of the unfolding drama, in Henson’s words these are visions that are “powerfully apprehended but not completely understood”.
The beauty of the images themselves ensnares the beholder: we are compelled to look and yet by looking we are made complicit in the events that unfold. Edging beyond their status as photographs, Henson’s large scale images with their muted tones and velvety darkness simultaneously assume the visual languages of film and the sublime sulkiness of the Northern Romantic painting tradition.
The figurative images in this series replay scenes reminiscent of religious painting where nubile youth are expelled from Eden. The untitled landscapes invoke early photographic processes and are like the shadowy spectres of photography’s past. The brooding landscapes are juxtaposed with the figurative images so that each image is read via the other, through a glass darkly. -- Strange Cargo Website
Bill Henson Not Uncensored Nude Photos
Henson's elegant, formal photographs - of battered landscapes and fragile, wispy youths - resemble nothing so much as Flemish still-lifes; rarely has colour photography captured so profoundly the furry texture of night time. The New Yorker 2004
Bill Henson is a visionary explorer of twilight zones, between nature and civilization, youth and adulthood, male and female. His photographs are painterly tableaux that continue the traditions of romantic literature and painting.