Oz artist's nude paintings set against religious scenes cause outrage

Last Updated: Wed, Sep 15, 2010 12:40 hrs

Australian artist Rodney Pople's paintings have been met with outrage and protests for depicting pornography and classical religious iconography.

One of the paintings showed a porn star being penetrated anally and orally, while being set against one of the most recognisable religious scenes in Renaissance art.

While many of the works in the show, including the Bellini Altarpiece triptych, feature sexually explicit paintings of naked figures superimposed on to photographs of Venetian church interiors.

At the opening night of Pople's exhibition Bellini 21c on September 14, about 25 demonstrators with placards and a statue of the Virgin Mary spent three hours praying outside Australian Galleries in Paddington.

Gallery staff had to field a flood of abusive telephone calls, and more than 60 written complaints have been lodged with Woollahra Council.

A spokeswoman for Woollahra mayor Andrew Petrie said the complaints had been forwarded to Rose Bay police, who in turn said they have inspected the work and will take no further action.

"The gallery has taken steps to ensure the public is forewarned about the nature of the artworks on display and members of the public are free to choose whether or not to view the works," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted a police spokeswoman as saying.

Pople has come to the defence of his paintings, but he was not prepared for the intensity of the protest, or for many of his critics refusing to view the exhibition.

"My paintings are not an attack on Christianity and that to me is very clear," he said.

"I'm looking at the Catholic Church in some of these images as a pinnacle of society and how that's sort of eroded away somewhat with recent events ...

"I expected a little [of the controversy] but not the intensity we've got.

"Maybe it's just hit a few chords, this show, which I think is good for art because art needs to do that," he added. (ANI)

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