This is the poster I shared on social media, when my painting “Michael” went missing on its return from a show in Moscow. My painting, along with over a dozen others, were being shipped back to London, to the co-organisers of the event here. Somewhere enroute, the box containing all the artworks was damaged, half the artworks were reboxed, given a new tracking number, and found their way successfully to London. The remaining artworks have disappeared into some limbo between the Russian and British courier companies. Each side is blaming the other, with neither accepting liability. All the time treating the lost “items” with about as much sympathy as they would deal with a lost book or DVD. With my painting now lost to me, part of me hopes that it has been stolen, and is hanging on someone’s wall, giving them pleasure. The terrible truth is that it has most likely been mashed up by a clumsy forklift driver, and thrown in the bin like it was a dirty pair of socks.
The opening night of “Nude or Fully Clothed” at Nude Tin Can Gallery in St Albans went very well. Very pleased to make a sale, which always puts me in a good mood. But also it was such a well organised event (busy, but not overly crowded), that the whole evening shot by, with plenty of interesting conversations.
I should add that the journey to St Albans was surprisingly easy – less than 30mins on Thameslink from St Pancras. The exhibition continues until the 29th January, and is well worth a visit.
So, it’s finally here. After toying with the idea, experimenting, hesitating, prevaricating, I have finally committed to commence sittings for my “Who Am I” series.
The idea is simple enough, but the execution of the idea has proved problematic. I’ve struggled to think of a way to convince strangers to pose naked in my studio, in an unflattering direct light,… Paid only a token sum, and portrayed anyway that I see fit.
It’s all about identity. Our sense of who we are, or more specifically, who “you” are. When you take away the fineries, your props, and you strip yourself down to your bare naked self…, is that a more honest account of who you are? Or are our clothes and embellishments just as much about who we are? And what of the viewer? What are they to make of a subject who has been stripped of all those things that would normally hint at social status and personality?
So the idea evolved from a commission (above, painting on left). The commission was for a naked portrait, of a guy about whom I knew nothing. At first I didn’t enjoy it…. saw it as a chore. But slowly I began to feel a strange sense of liberation, a freedom in how I described this stranger. At first I was concerned about how they’d view my “interpretation” of who they are. Then I started to think that maybe my interpretation is just as valid as their own self-image.
So my idea, my project, is to portray a series of “strangers” – a series of paintings of people standing naked in an anonymous space, with no clue as to their identity. I will be as ignorant as the viewer, so as not to taint the experiment.
So what is the point? Is it to ask if we are all the same deep down, beneath the veneer of our attire? Or is the opposite? Will someones personality shine through regardless? What is a more valid interpretation of a person’s personality? Is it how they view themselves, or how others see them?
If you’re interested in participating in this little experiment. do get in touch (email on contact page). Just remember not to tell me anything about yourself.
I’ll be showing my diptych “unnamed portraits” in the London Ultra exhibition at The Bargehouse, London SE1 9PH. The show runs from the 6th to the 9th December, 11.00-18.00. Preview party is on the 6th December, 18.00-21.00.
“Present Perfect Continuous”, hosted by Zverev Contemporary Art Centre in Moscow, has just finished. This show was a collaboration between artnumber23 here in London, and the Zverev Contemporary Art Centre.
My contribution to the show was my portrait “Michael”, which the organisers kindly placed in a frame before showing.
I’ve been working on ideas for a new series of paintings for a while now, and it has got me thinking about why I paint the subjects that I do, and what are the real themes and ideas that I am trying to explore. Why do I paint naked bodies and not flowers, boats or trees?
What springs to mind when you think “naked”?…… Exposed?.., self-conscious?.., vulnerable? These are what I feel when I imagine myself naked. Another person might say liberated or sexy. I know from the experience of showing my paintings over the years that people’s perception of nudity varies wildly. A large number of people, for instance, are simply unable to dissociate nudity from sexuality.
“Honesty”. If you strip a subject of all its decoration and embellishments, isolate it from its surroundings and props, are you left with the true essence of that subject? Does a painting of a person thus exposed actually say any more about their true character? Is it a more honest depiction than if they were in their chosen attire and makeup?
“Relationships”. In any depiction of a person who posed in front of an artist, there are at work dynamic relationships between the artist, the model and the viewer. Just as the viewer will bring along their own preconceptions of the artist and the subject, so the artist will, during the sitting, form their own opinion of the model’s personality. Subsequently, however they try to honestly describe what they see, the artist’s depiction will always be tainted by their own views. This is what distinguishes a painting from a photo.
“Identity”. Who am I? What am I? These are questions artists and philosophers have been asking through the ages. Although it seems impossible to ever give a truly honest account of the world around us, still they strive to achieve it. I wonder if, when a model poses, if I know nothing about the model, would I be better able to give an honest description of them? Or would the work be somehow diminished if I didn’t know who they were or what they do? I think it’s worth a go. Anyone interested in posing nude for this new series is welcome to get in touch. False names encouraged 🙂
Well, this years open studio event at Leegate House has been and gone. Many thanks to those that made the journey to this little corner of southeast London. Thankfully the heatwave abated, just for the day, and we didn’t all melt in our studios.
These open studios events are a prerequisite for studio providers to maintain their charitable status – to demonstrate they’re “engaging with the community”. In my experience, many studio providers will only make a token effort, and most artists will see it as an inconvenience.
I’m pleased to say that Bow Arts treated this event with a lot more enthusiasm than some other studio providers I’ve been involved with; as did most of the artists here in Leegate House – it was the most enjoyable open studio that I’ve taken part in. Some of the nicest conversations I had were with local people who’d seen a flyer in the local Sainsburys, and thought “I must go along to that”. I spend most of my time locked away alone in this room on the fifth floor. It’s actually quite nice opening the doors to the public once a year.
I had some difficulty with the above painting. A few years ago I had a model regularly do life-modelling for me. She posed for me on numerous occasions over many months. During these sittings, we spoke about anything and everything…, but I never once mentioned the scars on her arms. I often wondered about them, but just thought it inappropriate to talk about them. And I never showed them in my paintings.
I recently read “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara. In this book, the main character spends most of his life self-harming, and it was interesting to see how those around him, including his closest friends, although aware of what he did, never spoke about it. Is this the norm?
So I revisited my reference photos and drawings from our various sittings, and thought that this time I would show her scars. I worried about whether it was appropriate to make them the subject of the portrait. But I painted them. And now I’m showing them.