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.
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’ve started work on a series of headless nudes. It’s a development of some figure studies I have been working on. I was interested in seeing to what extent a sense of the sitter’s identity could be conveyed if, first, they were stripped of their clothes, and then, as in the case with this painting, their heads were cropped from the painting.
This is a portrait of my friend and fellow artist Tarique. Some of his paintings and ceramics can be found here. It was an interesting challenge painting his painting (which we used as the backdrop), and having to use a quite different palette.
I was recently clearing out my late Mum’s house, when I came across a self-portrait that I must have painted when an Art School – probably 1983-84. I don’t have any of my old student paintings, and so this is an interesting reminder of my old painting technique. I’ve shown it below along with my most recent self-portrait, to show the difference in styles.
So, I’ve been working with glazes this morning on one of my current paintings. When I finished, I thought that, instead of throwing away the leftover glaze and cleaning my palette, I would use it to try and finish this painting that has been lying around the studio for a long time now (I think I had the original sittings with the models in July 2013).
I do have a problem working on these older pieces. The sittings are usually from so long ago, that I can’t recall exactly what I had in mind as I directed the model. But most importantly, this painting belongs to a body of work that I was working on over a year ago. It’s only natural that my compositions and also my technique will have changed during this time.
At the moment, I have in my studio a collection of unfinished paintings; some of them started well over a year ago. Although anxious to resume work on my “Feast of Venus” project, I shall try and finish some of these pieces first. They are all important to me, and are only unfinished because of the wretched time I’ve had this past year in finding a suitable studio.