Monday, June 17, 2013

The Art of Graham Ovenden and Statements of Support

Graham Ovenden The Communion of the Trees (oilThrough his trial and sentencing, Graham Ovenden has continued to enjoy the support of many friends who, knowing him well over the years, quite rightly disbelieve the charges and dispute that Mr. Ovenden's work is "indecent," except perhaps under an outmoded and arbitrary standard that is held -- in bad faith -- as objective and so-called 'right-minded.' Indeed, any determination of "indecency" of images of nude minors will necessarily be driven by the rhetoric of moral panic and the tabloid mentality so prevalent today. The latter are phenomena that carry their own serious harms. This topic will be taken up in detail in a future post.

The next several posts, however, will be devoted to Graham Ovenden, the artist. Some ill-informed people have set out to convince the world that Graham Ovenden is not an artist whose work should be taken seriously. The art itself, of course, tells a very different story: this is not only work that should be taken seriously, but it will endure.

Statements of Support.

Robin Hanbury-Tenison, British explorer, who was interviewed by the Daily Mail on 05 April 2013:
Among [Graham Ovenden's] his staunchest defenders are the art-loving explorer and author Robin Hanbury-Tenison, 76, and his wife Louella, a former High Sheriff of Cornwall. Indeed, an Ovenden portrait of one of their sons — fully clothed — hangs in the sitting room of their manor house.

‘I simply do not believe Graham is capable of the allegations made against him,’ declares Mrs Hanbury-Tenison. ‘They are not credible in my view.’

Her husband adds: ‘These accounts are coming from women who are now in their 40s. One wonders why it has taken so long. I find it outrageous that there is shock-horror at him having painted little girls naked in the Sixties and Seventies. For this to be compared with the gross activities of people like Jimmy Savile or the appalling pornography on the internet — it just defies belief.

‘The blindfolding of a child [for art] — yes, I can see what he was trying to do in representing innocence and justice.

Graham Ovenden The Secret Garden‘But it is the last gasp of puritanism to be concentrating on somehow making that innocence of childhood into something vulgar.’

As for Ovenden’s pictures of children, the great explorer says that the European art world is ‘laughing at Britain over its obsession with this matter’, adding: ‘As Oscar Wilde said, there is “no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality”.
The day before sentencing, Mr. Hanbury-Tenison solicited the support to David Hockney and received a short reply:

03 June 2013

Dear David,

Many, many years ago you came to breakfast here at my farm on Bodmin Moor with my great friend from university, Anthony Page, who I still see from time to time.

A close neighbour and also a very good friend is Graham Ovenden. I'm sure you know about the trouble he has been having, pursued disgracefully by ignorant police, who cannot tell the difference between art and pornography. If you haven't seen it already, do look at the very impressive true story of what has been going on here:

Graham is being sentenced in Plymouth tomorrow and we fear the worst, because the whole case has been a disgrace, and the judge appears very biased. His case is already going to Appeal and when that happens I believe that not only will Graham be completely exonerated, but the whole art world will rally round and point out the utter stupidity of regarding childhood nudity as something to be ashamed of. It is the age of the fig leaf all over again!

Graham Ovenden Shropshire Ancient Chestnuts 01I do hope you agree and support him.

With best wishes,

Robin Hanbury-Tenison
Cabilla Manor

* * *

05 June 2013

Dear Robin Hanbury-Tenison,

Your message for David Hockney was forwarded to him.

His reply is as follows:

I agree
David Hockney

* * *

David Hockney also stood by Graham Ovenden in 1994, when the Metropolitan Police were unjustly pursuing Mr. Ovenden the first time. (The letter is hand-written.)

April 6, 1994

Dear Graham:

Thank you for your letter. The story I read in the Sunday Telegraph last January first made me furious and than after a little thought just intensely sad.

Twenty-five years ago I was stopped at London Airport and told some magazines I had were pornographic. I persisted with my arguments with them and only got them back after many officials had said they were pornographic, - each one paid more than the previous one to make better decisions - nor did until it got to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the head of Customs) who realised I would win the case and gave them back to me.

Sadly I'm told nothing has changed, -- they could still do the same thing at London Airport. - So much for my ranting and raving all those years, -- people don't complain enough in England, and there's more censorship in England than there is in Spain. To me real English people should feel ashamed of this, -- but they don't seem to care.

Graham Ovenden SamanthaI know how awkward the philistine police can be, we seem to live in an age of cultivated ugliness, the idea that naked children are not sexy or beautiful is to me obnoxious and sick, and unfortunately people are very naive about pictures, they now seem to confuse them with reality.

I suspect that the police that are dealing with you are really rather sick, with obsessive minds concentrating on lust not beauty which they will have an inability to see. It will never be a perfect world. I know about human frailty, but artists must point out the beauty., and there will always be small petty minds with myopic vision.

Don't get too disheartened and keep on painting what you like, and like what you paint (Ruskin). Let me know if I can help other than shouting philistine at official England.

Much love,

David H.

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