On my last post about "We're Better Together" t-shirts I mentioned that I'd got in contact with my secondary school's art department for advice on how to get started with screen prints, and I was kindly allowed to use their facilities. After setting up the screens, and waiting on them to dry out my former teacher, Karen Plummer, mentioned that she was coming to the end of completing her MA in Art Teaching at Goldsmiths, and wanted my opinion on some photographs she'd taken, for one of her final pieces, with a model. She'd not been completely happy with them as the model she'd hired was unable to do the poses she wanted properly, due to being ridiculously HENCH, so in turn a bit less flexible.
For what it was worth, as a bit of a throw away comment I stated that if she wasn't happy with the model then it would affect the overall work and probably shouldn't persevere with him.
It was at this point she turned to me.
"Do you want to do it?"
"Erm. Don't think I'm the modelling type"
"Are you sure, I'd pay you the modelling fee"
"Erm, ok, I suppose I could try"
Let that be a note to all those looking for creative workers... I'm pretty maleable.
So that's how it started off.
Over, roughly, seven weeks, I posed for the painting for between 2-3 hours periods. Anyone who has had their picture drawn, and asked to be still for any length of time knows its very difficult not to be distracted. Fortunately, I was meant to be dead in the painting so it meant that I'd be laying down. While this was a lot easier than, I presume, having to hold a standing pose would be it still had its challenges. The positioning of my arms and, to a lesser extent, my legs meant that my body was at an slightly awkward angle and not fully relaxed. My body weight was held on my left side, and with my shoulder tensed it meant that I had to concentrate on the position, as well as the ability to block out the incremental feelings of pain and numbness in the arm and neck.
I would start off being able to hold the pose for anything from 45 minutes to an hour, but after succumbing to the pain on the first occasion it felt like I had less resistance to it, and could hold the position for much less time.
While the majority of the piece was done from live modelling, there were portions that were done from photographs, mainly due to time constraints on both parts. I can't comment on how that would have affected this piece but, from my own experience, a photograph often gives a distorted view of the forn and tonal scale of the subject matter. This seems somewhat perverse, as a photo is a snapshot from a moment in time but I believe that drawing from life is far more of an informative method of working. One could draw an analogy of watch a sporting event on television as opposed to seeing it live. The visual experience is not the same, and in both cases you can only see what the camera is telling you to see.
So far I've spoken a lot about my own experience, so here is a quote from the artist describing the overall theme of the work:
"My ontological understanding is grounded within my artistic practice in a continual exploration of meaning through the use of visual enquiry, scrutiny and recording. The artwork I create is autobiographical: it concerns looking, viewing, deconstructing and subsequently reconstructing. I perceive this as a becoming creative process, planting affective structures of reference, which are rooted in the process of praxis in order to, identify, develop, highlight, and implement the emergence of change and to transform reality. My preferred subject matter, which, has continued to be a major preoccupation is the human form and one where difference can be celebrated. My most recent work, a triptych of paintings, are characteristic of the way in which I work in that they are figuratively drawn from life. The work is realised through the liberation of line and colour and expressed through the language of paint. I view them as an exploratory set of paintings that combine the dialogical tension between self, other, the life of the materials and in their conversation with each other. Identity is a key theme to this body of work, which concerns the notions of self-representation, difference, stereotype and self-discovery. The images were constructed through a process of recording with sensations, mark-making and colour; a lateral mode of creating and. Appearances and sensations were recorded and built up as an intuitive, emotional response to what Bacon referred to as the ‘mystery of appearance’. The brush served as an extension of my hand and arm to my mind’s subconscious imagination in order to unlock and reveal. In this way, I have used my materials as a language vehicle for creating images; ‘trapping’ and ‘unlocking’ in order to ‘draw out’ a ‘realisation’ that makes sense of the world, to deconstruct and re-territorialise it by using non-linguistic forms of communication."
Images taken at the Goldsmiths MAAT Private View, 03/09/12.
Once finished the painting was displayed in an exhibition held by Goldsmiths, at St. James Church. There, I was introduced to Graham, who Karen had begun painting at roughly the same time as myself. In the week leading up to the exhibition I was due to pose for a final time but were unable to schedule a time, so the first time I saw the finished article was hanging in the gallery. Despite having seen it develop over several weeks it was a rather surreal experience to be in a room with the painting, with other people who would have been viewing it for the first time.
On a brief note, this was a rather poignant venue, as I'd attended primary school only metres away from the gallery space and Karen had attended Goldsmiths at undergraduate level, so it was a homecoming of sorts for both of us.
Overall, it was definitely a new experience that I wouldn't necessarily be adverse to but, I think my forté lies as the creator rather than the subject matter.
One last Handsome Boy Modeling School reference...