Bill Henson Artwork

Some of the controversial Bill Henson Scandalous photos

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

These are the controversial Bill Henson photos which started it all.

Some interesting comparisons...



CL SH596 N33

CL SH596 N20
CL SH596 N30
Cat 2-CL SH484 N27
Cat 9-CL SH 553 N3
Cat 1-CL SH553 N8
Cat 3-O SH109 N18
Cat 4-CL SH541 N2
Cat 5-CL SH560 N7 FB
Untitled 2005/06

Cat 7-CL SH566 N20
Cat 13-TJM SH25 N11
Cat 11-CL SH528 N13
Cat 12-CL SH556 N2
Cat 16-CL SH481 N28

Art & Australia

Untitled 1997/1998
Untitled 1997/1998
Untitled 1997/1998
Untitled 1997/1998
Untitled 2000/2002
Untitled 2000/2002
Untitled 2000/2002
Untitled 2000/2002
Untitled 2000/2002

Paris Opera Project 29/77
Paris Opera Project 50/111
Paris Opera Project 2/1
Paris Opera Project 36/105
Paris Opera Project 12/38

NY/LA CAT #4

NY/LA CAT #18
NY/LA CAT #17
NY/LA CAT #7
NY/LA CAT #15
Suburban 71L
Suburban 17
Suburban 14
Suburban 13

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.

-->

About Bill Henson controversial photography art. I'm not going to add too much subjective commentary here - mainly because I don't have any to add - I'm more of a practical person - I see things as they are most of the time. Controveries aren't new to the art world. Although I do find it fascinating to hear/read other people's subjective commentary about Bill Henson's artwork and other art in general... Anyway here are some of his photos and related commentaries which I found scattered on the WWW.

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

These are the controversial Bill Henson photos which started it all.

Some interesting comparisons...


CL SH596 N33

CL SH596 N20
CL SH596 N30
Cat 2-CL SH484 N27
Cat 9-CL SH 553 N3
Cat 1-CL SH553 N8
Cat 3-O SH109 N18
Cat 4-CL SH541 N2
Cat 5-CL SH560 N7 FB
Untitled 2005/06

Cat 7-CL SH566 N20
Cat 13-TJM SH25 N11
Cat 11-CL SH528 N13
Cat 12-CL SH556 N2
Cat 16-CL SH481 N28

Art & Australia

Untitled 1997/1998
Untitled 1997/1998
Untitled 1997/1998
Untitled 1997/1998
Untitled 2000/2002
Untitled 2000/2002
Untitled 2000/2002
Untitled 2000/2002
Untitled 2000/2002

Paris Opera Project 29/77
Paris Opera Project 50/111
Paris Opera Project 2/1
Paris Opera Project 36/105
Paris Opera Project 12/38

NY/LA CAT #4

NY/LA CAT #18
NY/LA CAT #17
NY/LA CAT #7
NY/LA CAT #15
Suburban 71L
Suburban 17
Suburban 14
Suburban 13

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.

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  • Age, Sexuality and Art: Teaser: Bill Henson's Adolescent Art, Questions of Sexuality and Art ... columns of the SMH where Miranda Devine writes about Bill Henson 's new photography exhibition featuring naked 12 to 13 year olds ...
  • Bill Henson: Teaser: Who is Bill Henson? Image: Body: So who is Bill Henson? Is he an artist or a pedophile? Are his photos pornographic or are ...
  • Art and Controversy: ... a hundred years ago. So what is this controversial artwork? I'm looking at the painting called "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe" or ... an art gallery, I wouldn't see any controversy about this artwork. My depth of knowledge is basically nothing when it comes to art. If I ...
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Submitted by Marco on Wed, 28/05/2008 - 5:52pm.

To delete what offends is the mark of tyranny. Protecting what offends you, on the other hand, guards free speech. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote, paraphrasing Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Action, of course, is different from speech. We do not protect freedom of action, especially when there is deliberate harm. But art, even visual art, is closer to speech than action. Manet's Olympia was considered pornographic not for her nudity, but for her unashamed prostitute status; for daring to make comment. This underlies Kenneth Clark's famous distinction between the naked and the nude; the nude being a message bearer, not just an unclad body.

Still, Henson's detractors look for harm caused by his pictures: harm to his subjects (which they, and their parents, deny); harm to children generally; harm, as it were, to public morality. This underlies Rudd's "let kids be kids" comments and Iemma's blather about moral codes and decency. As though a latent pedophile might enact his fantasies only after popping into a Paddington art show for inspiration.

In truth, however, pedophilia pervades society, ban or no ban. We habitually accept the sexualising of children - in advertising, television, beauty pageants and talent shows - as entirely normal.

--from Adults overboard in the frenzy to sniff out smut

Submitted by Marco on Fri, 06/06/2008 - 11:38pm.

New South Wales police will not prosecute Bill Henson over his controversial photos.

The Classification Board this week cleared a number of photographs that were were among those seized by police from the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery in Sydney last month.

This morning, reports suggested Crown prosecutors would tell NSW Police that there is no case for prosecuting Henson for child pornography.

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has also been given the all clear over its collection of images by the controversial photographer.

Last week the NGA became the latest gallery caught up in the Bill Henson storm after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) examined its collection and decided to assess the works.

The NGA has a collection of 79 Henson photographs, none of which are currently on public display.

The AFP has confirmed there had been no breaches of ACT law.

"The AFP has concluded an assessment of images ... at a Canberra art gallery storage facility," an AFP spokesman said.

"On the basis of that assessment, no breaches of ACT law relating to child pornography has been established."

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