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By Association member China Hamilton.

I was obsessed by things sexual long before I was even aware of the meaning of such primal feelings. Now I’m going to be rather hard on people: you can’t be an artist whose creative direction is into the erotic subjects unless you are extremely sexually powered and aware yourself. Bottom line is, that it’s not an intellectual exercise, instead it is a subject that is and has to be driven by a personal, erotic passion. All successful creativity i.e. music, fiction writing, painting etc. is driven by passion. Erotic art, however, requires ‘sexual passion’ as its root.

I was recently honoured to be a judge for the international ‘Erotic Signature’ competition. What was apparent, from the massive number of entries that passed before my eyes, was that, good or bad, they fell into two distinct groups. The larger group by far, though it had sexual content, lacked any emotional or erotic communication. They were purely a demonstration of the intellect brought to the subject. Sometimes such work had great technical skill and was elegantly and proficiently presented but it was, though, cold and detached. The second much smaller group, however, regardless of technical ability, did have that special something; that essential, emotional engagement, power and darkness that made them highly erotic, stimulating and desirable. It is not, and I must emphasise this, a matter of personal taste. Personal taste is about what one might wish to own and enjoy. It doesn’t, though, preclude an ability to see the energy and value in a piece of work that isn’t of ones own taste.

It is a popular misconception that erotic art is something that is just sexual or has sexual connotations, or even is just pornographic and gratuitously explicit. Yes, such factors can in part or in total be present but it must have far more. I will use an example I have often used: if I produce a picture of a woman holding a whip in a leather cat suit, I will of course instantly communicate a number of sexual factors to the viewer. Its content, though, is not enough to make it a successful erotic picture, any more that a few trees and a hill make a successful landscape picture. The single purpose of what I am writing is not to seek to teach anyone how to produce their own work but rather to draw attention to the intangible rules that inevitably govern all such work. These are the rules that I personally try and work by, judging each piece of work that I decide to show against this tough scale. What I produce must have an effect upon those who see it and judge it. I use three simple areas to try and contain what is such a subtle matter.

Face - If the face is showing then it must have an expression that engages those who look upon it. What it expresses can be so many things but it must communicate. A bland, indifferent expression says nothing and instantly the picture is boring and, certainly, never erotic.

The Story - Some pieces of erotic work are just a celebration of male or female beauty; we just like to look and enjoy. Others, in either the simplest of ways or through complexity, convey the beginning, the middle or the end of a story of the fantasy mind. Often what a person sees in such work is far from what its creator saw or tried to convey but there must be elements that engage the fantasy imagination and take it in different directions just as people are so different. The story can be obvious, subtle or even esoteric but always it must draw upon the sexuality of the mind and trigger a response.

The Body - Assuming that a picture features all or part of a body, clothed, part clothed or naked then that body must succeed in expressing in some way its inherent sexuality to be considered erotic. A body can be portrayed in such a way as to present bland innocence. I say bland as, of course, innocence can also be extremely erotic. The body can talk to the viewer as much as a face, especially our secondary means of expression, our hands. The body is as much a portrait of that person as is their face.

For me, these three facets must always work together in some kind of harmony to produce a successful erotic image. Think of it in terms of pop music and cover versions of the same composition. One can be boring, indifferent, one interesting and competent and one will get that spine tingling and the gut tightening each time you hear it. Such is our form of art. Words, music and arrangement. I include, with this little text of mine, a selection of pictures from my own work. Each is, I feel, an example of a different approach to trying to achieve an erotic picture. Equally you will all see something different in each picture to what it is that I personally see; what matters is that you see something or I have failed. I hope, though, that what I have written will at least draw attention to the motivation of your own work; make you stop and consider. We are all trying to produce work in such a difficult area of creativity. We will all fail a great deal of the time but it is when we succeed that it all becomes so wonderfully worthwhile.

The Pictures.

images © China Hamilton
images © China Hamilton
images © China Hamilton
images © China Hamilton
Double click on an image to view in a higher resolution. All images © China Hamilton

A] This is a well published picture perhaps because it works on many levels. Primarily it is that rare combination, a soft and gentle picture that is however most sexual and explicit. The face is non-confrontational away with its own thoughts and those we question. She is, though, certainly seeming to be unaware that we are even there looking. The lovely hand, resting upon the womb, is equally calm and restful. Her sex invites and, through its little piercing, communicates that perhaps she is more aware of this area of her body than her innocence might suggest!

B] This picture encompasses my criteria for a story. The room is certainly not conventional; the more we look the more we can see sexual artefacts and images lurking in the darkness. Are those canes hanging menacingly over the fireplace? Not only is she bent, tightening her fine legs and bottom, in a position that would suggest the possibilities of corporal punishment, we can just discern that she wears leather cuffs upon her wrists. The burning candles and the decor of the room take us back to the past when darker things always seemed to happen.

C] With this series of pictures I question if they are erotic at all? Perhaps they are more a celebration of this powerful, lean female body, though the mound and breasts invite and the gasping mouth suggests other moments of a more private nature?

D] This picture is all about the naughty side of the erotic image. The wild, period bed and the expression upon her face tell their story which I will leave up to your own imagination.

images © China Hamilton
images © China Hamilton
images © China Hamilton
images © China Hamilton
Double click on an image to view in a higher resolution. All images © China Hamilton

E] The nervous, twisting hands, the apprehensive face, the little ribbon in the hair and the raised shift to bare the perfect bottom. Yes, erotic certainly for it tweaks so many buttons of the mind.

F] The watching eyes that hold yours provide the expression for the passive mask of mystery. The hands express as they perhaps move up the body. The language of the body, breasts and sex seem to be poised, even predatory. To me, it is sexual indeed.

G] A rare informal picture for me. To be, though, in a bathroom as a woman bathes naked, her skin wet and gleaming, something normally so private, invites the informality of the erotic into our heads.

H] Is the mask being applied or removed? Who do we see reflected in the mirror? This, though, is no private, informal moment captured in a bathroom. This is about the erotic, perfect beauty of her bottom. Is she to be ours to know or shall we just dream?