GREAT SCOTT by Chris Fallowfield
Few of us, I imagine, would choose to be challenged by Scott (he’s a big lad, isn’t he?). But then he was relatively unchallenged by us, with a pose about as anodyne as he could expect: his massive back unbent, shoulders and torso untwisted, hands and feet relaxed. He was faultless in what he was required to do, sitting motionless for a naked portrait opportunity. And the portraitists were once again to the fore. Roger H grimaced and expostulated his way towards a very passable likeness. Neil (our very own Douanier Rousseau) made his usual charismatic contribution. Tom allowed glimpses of his laser-display like under painting to sparkle amidst his adventurous mark-making; Russell followed him in a similar orbit. Tony produced my favourite of the evening. Unseduced by watercolour’s inherent promise of Serendipity, he applies it with the same spartan rigour as his pencil. The result was entirely in keeping with the steely determination in Scott’s eyes, the firm set of the mouth and jaw.
And so to life-drawing. Sufficient challenge, you might say, to represent the human form in as accurate a manner as possible: about as hard as it gets? Well, a foreshortened leg can certainly present one with a challenge of a sort (quite apart from an unwanted limp). But what about that other sort of challenge that can accompany us to the studio: an awareness of our own mortality, a concern with the transience of our associates, the model, the light, time passing? It could be argued that we should put all this to one side and be objective in our work, but I object to Objectivity. From the ancient sages to particle physicists, from Carl Jung to the perennial infestation of darts on the telly, all are telling us one thing: objectivity is a dangerous illusion, desist! It requires us to somehow put aside our feelings (that which we most prize about our humanity) in order to be, well... objective (i.e. desensitised). Admirable if you’re about to service a lawnmower, but of little use to an artist. We must all have favourite works which affect us emotionally, whilst being technically far from perfect. Similarly, “perfect” work may leave us unmoved. I should confess that Michelangelo’s drawings leave me cold. But accuracy in itself differs from objectivity when it is a means to an end, a tool amongst others (composition, colour, texture...) in our ways of expression. Sorry, I’m rambling, I know I am.
As so often, in a quite inexplicable way, elemental weather outside made its presence felt in our work (and not just through the roof). I was ill-advised enough not to tone down the white paper before starting, and finished with a hastily-constructed tornado brewing behind Scott. Barry had it lashing down in front of him, and Roger S obliged us to peer through a rain-spattered window to make out Scott, and Tony with his own watery reflection. Roger is currently juggling with at least three elements: the geometry of Cezanne, the palette of Mondrian, and the aesthetics of Robert Rauschenberg. Each week he comes closer to a complex amalgamation in his own vision. Sandra again challenged herself by working onto a colour that would enrage a bull, and the resulting powerful image is evidence of physicality versus finesse, finely honed. Incidentally, she must by now have a major collection of unrecorded quickly-executed works which somehow fire her up for the main task, and which are often very beautiful in themselves. Steve continues to be impressive. He has the left leg and arm less detailed, less realised tonally, which allow them to occupy a space of their own. The single line describing the underside of the thigh is a dream. Cathy, Fiona, Ivan, I should not have lumped you together at the end, because your strong, honest work is the very stuff of which a life class should be made.
I’ve finished! OMG!!! (Opprobrium More-or-less Guaranteed!)
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Cathy, Chris, Fiona, Ivan, Neil, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sandra, Steven, Tom and Tony.