Ovenden, Graham. (4 of 5). Oral History of British Photography

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    BL, London, United Kingdom

  • Interviewees

    Ovenden, Graham 1943- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lau, Grace (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 4. At the Royal College of Art, Graham Ovenden (GO) was befriended by Robert Melville who wrote about him and bought his works from 1966. Although given a one-man show at the RCA, this was banned by the Head of the RCA perhaps due to censorship on his nudes. So he rejected his diploma, but they persuaded him to accept it. In 1968 he said he would never enter an art college again. Censorship was creeping in. Previously at life drawing classes at the RCA, mothers brought in their daughters to model, a lovely experience. (ref. Sally Mann's family works). GO comments Sally Mann not honest with herself or the media. Ref. Channel 4 programme on puberty planned for Sally's contribution but she backed out due to 'moral reasons, and not wishing to be involved in the subject'. Another instance was when she visited Nicky Akehurst with her children and when Nicky showed some images, Sally hastened to take her children out to avoid them seeing. That is hypocrisy. Political correctness is a euphemism for fascism; a sin, iconoclasm. Any nude has a natural sexuality, as do older women of 80 or 90 who never lose their state of grace; a beautiful quality. GO's paintings of little girls, in a tender complicated way because they are tender and complex creatures. August Sander is his favourite 19th century photographer; his portraits are moving because of their modesty. Also Bill Brandt's "British at Home" documents (1936). GO felt compelled to take his East End pictures because, like his girl nudes, he had a moral drive and obligation to hold these transient beings as images for all time. GO: "I'm aware of the sensuality of these young girls, I'm moved by their angelic side as well as their demon side; they have a total wonder in them. As an artist I wish to explore that. Children are beautiful but I don't flatter them, I draw them with an edge." Late 60s/early 70s, GO was friendly with Bailey, Donovan, had visits from Waddington and Marlborough galleries, and a one-man show in 1971 at Piccadilly Gallery. In 1970, 'Alice' was his first show with Peter Blake. 1974, showed 'Aspects of Lolita' at Waddington. Makes references to English art, Impressionism, Tate Modern being self-conscious and "arty-farty". Comments on Damien Hirst's shark and chemist shop being like the Victorian's cabinet of curios. No natural vocabulary any longer. Over the past ten years, we are creating a museum of monsters, ugliness. Refers to Bacon's work being very powerful in a negative way, with no compassion, the product of a nihilistic mind.

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