Taking erotic back to the temple

Peter Timms, The Age

One of Godwin Bradbeer’s achievements is to have taken sex out of the tawdry fairground to which modern pop culture had consigned it, and to have defiantly restored it to the temple. In other words, Bradbeer gives back to sexuality the sense of mysterious, sacred beauty it had for the late Romantics, complete with the sense of melancholy reflection that that implies, yet with little hint of the sentimentality and idealism that clouded the 19th-century vision.

But these drawings are traditional, not so much in the sense that they try to revive the art of the past or to express some kind of homage to it (although there are elements of both), but in the more fruitful sense that they carry on a constructive dialogue with history. They are antithesis to the Academy’s thesis. Yet the resulting synthesis is fragile.

It’s as if Bradbeer is constantly having to bring into check his natural propensity for voluptuousness. He makes a point of always seeing through things, even in the purely physical sense of seeing through the human body to the skeleton beneath, thus undermining any easy identification with physical beauty and foiling the scent of narcissism that might otherwise overwhelm everything.

But, despite these hints of mannerism, and although it might seem strangely anachronistic to say so, Godwin Bradbeer’s drawings undoubtedly carry moral authority, in a way that very few contemporary works do.

Peter Timms, The Age Thu, 27 Aug 1998

www.godwinbradbeer.com