The nude - bedeviled by a long history of divided opinion

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 April, 2009, 12:00am

Nudity was once common in art but today the naked human body almost always has sexual implications.

Two thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks depicted naked male bodies in their art in praise of their gods, heroes and Greek athleticism. This practice changed with the rise of Christianity.

Artist Roy Munday said, even in relatively recent times, artists have had to be very careful about painting nudes. 'One of the very first controversies of nude art was Edouard Manet's Olympia. He drew a prostitute in Paris.

'We are now living in a sexually oriented culture ... [and] now people link naked bodies with sexuality directly.'

In Chinese culture, sex has always been a taboo - and this is as true today as it was in the past. 'Anything related to the nude body is still a taboo in HK, including sex education,' said Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung, headmaster of Diocesan Boys' School.

'But I think the education sector overlooks the fact that students can now get a lot of erotic information on the internet. Our lessons are too mild to be considered as something unacceptable.'

Mr Chang defended the school's visual art lessons, saying they should not be controversial in any way whatsoever. 'We briefed the students before the lessons, and if they felt uncomfortable or embarrassed they should have informed us. Actually, we've got very positive feedback from the students. I've also seen some of their drawings, and they are very good.

'If you equal nude art with erotic art, then we have nothing to discuss as we're speaking from different positions. I trust the teacher ... There is nothing obscene or indecent about it.'