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Professionally known ‘Milo Manara’ is an extremely provocative Italian artist and writer who specialises in comic book illustration and erotica. First discovered by me through his work on the album cover of Scottish rock band Biffy Clyro’s second studio album “The Vertigo of Bliss”. Having never before come across such a grounding and proud form of personal escapism, my first reaction was to dismiss this sort of artwork as vulgar. However, mid-way through my inner rant, I tripped myself up, and began thinking about what this picture was actually saying. Who, indeed, was I, to say that such lustful images were unfit for the public eye? As a hardy left-winger and firm believer in freedom of speech and expression: nobody.
Upon closer examination and with this (fractionally) more open minded approach, I began to feel that it was unhealthier of me to be disgusted by these nudes than it was to appreciate the lack of censorship and self-control contained within them.
I can’t help but to relate the Italian culture of indulgence to their uninhibited and unashamed personalities. This is not only reflected in the Italian language itself, but also the rich history of artistry, identity and innovation. Seen in this way, the paintings become about the celebration of women rather than the possession of them.
The women in Manara’s work are not faceless objects but powerful, enchanting characters. The subject matter, if shocking, demands to be admired; and in many ways that is part of the reason one struggles to avert their eyes. This representation challenges contemporary materialistic and consumer-orientated ways of looking at the female form, while still maintaining the simplistic voyeurism of admiration and attraction. The significance of such a depiction lies within the human desire for fantasy and a very real need to maintain a realistic idea of what female sexuality is.
By Catrin Westerland
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham