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’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 🙂
I’ve settled on a provisional layout for my Feast of Venus painting. Most of the figures are quite well defined for this early stage, but there are a few unresolved areas. I will have to make some decisions about the background in the top right, and the tree behind the central figure of Venus. So today I went out with my camera, photographing trees. I must confess that I’ve not spent much time looking at trees in the past, and to begin with I was amazed by the huge variety in form and texture….. After four hours, they all started to look pretty much the same.
I now have a selection of poses that I’m happy with, which I can present to the model when she arrives for the first sitting. This first sitting will just enable me to work on the layout to a greater detail, so I can make decisions about how I want each figure to look; then I can start looking for suitable life models.