‘In your face’ nude paintings removed from Portsmouth Cathedral art exhibition after they ‘distressed’ parishioners 

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NUDE paintings selected to appear in an annual cathedral art exhibition have been pulled down after just five days because they ‘distressed’ parishioners. 

Southsea artist Joe Greenwood says his work has been ‘misconstrued’ after the series of four acrylic canvas works were deemed too inappropriate to hang from the walls of Portsmouth Cathedral.

Artist Joe Greenwood from Southsea Picture: Sarah Standing (180617-549)

Artist Joe Greenwood from Southsea Picture: Sarah Standing (180617-549)

Until they were ejected from the Anglican church on Wednesday, the pictures which collectively took Joe three months to paint featured in the Portsmouth and Hampshire Art Society’s (PHAS) summer show. 

But they have now been returned to Mr Greenwood’s Francis Avenue home, where they will remain until the exhibition concludes on August 8. 

The 40-year-old has dubbed the ban ‘a personal disappointment’. 

‘This was my first proper exhibition, so it makes me sad my paintings have been misconstrued in this way,’ he said. 

‘Nudity itself is not a sexual thing, it’s just a human form, and there is a lot of it in religious art – look at the Sistine Chapel for example. 

‘I was conscious to make these images respectful and I'm actually very pleased with the way they turned out – but I’ve found myself rather embarrassed with the effect they’ve had.’ 

The paintings were given the green light to appear in the show ahead of its preview last Friday. 

However, PHAS publicity officer, Irene Strange, said some members of the cathedral’s congregation had complained when it went live a day later, saying the images were too ‘in your face’. 

She said: ‘Initially the pictures were on a wall close to one of the cathedral entrances, but they were moved to a back wall – not facing the altar – at the request of the dean. 

‘The artwork is excellent, but perhaps two of the four paintings were not really suitable to have gone in a church.’ 

Mr Greenwood said he ‘wouldn’t be hasty’ to judge the images’ critics for expressing their ‘valid subjective opinion’. 

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Portsmouth said: ‘Portsmouth Cathedral aims to be a space open to everybody. Whenever a public exhibition takes place in a church it is important to consider how it relates to our main purpose of being a place for prayer, reflection, and worship.

‘Initially the paintings were considered to be suitable for the exhibition, but a number of regular cathedral users expressed distress about their presence, and in consultation with The Portsmouth and Hampshire Art Society it was decided to remove them from the exhibition.

‘This decision is not a reflection on the quality of the artist’s work, but on our duty to balance the needs of all those who come to the cathedral.’ 

Computer science graduate Mr Greenwood, whose goal is to become a professional artist, is now selling the four paintings.

Prices begin at £650 for the smallest, peaking at £875 for the largest. 

Interested parties should email joe@greenwoodjoe.co.uk