There's no escaping the Olympics but then again why would you want to especially on 'Super Saturday' with three more gold medals in the bag and the exquisite Jessica Ennis at her talismanic best. For me the finest image was the look of shocked exaltation on the face of the beautiful Mo Farrah as all his dreams came true, eyes popping, mouth wide open, skin gleaming, his face should for ever more be the standard model for any witness to the Ascension. I say this because Sandra kindly brought in a lovely little book on Piero della Francesca in which people in 15th Century Italy routinely witnessed the most spectacular of miracles with nonchalance verging on the bored. Of course this was Piero's cunning plan to make the most extraordinary seem ordinary. I'm almost tempted to say the BBC have repeated the feat in reverse where a man jumping into a sandpit is described as 'something we may never see again in our lifetime' but that would be churlish and surely we're in a hyperbole amnesty after all.
Guy our last minute stand in model was also a revelation, tall, muscular with the bearing of a quiet Olympian, he sat with a grace and stillness appreciated by all. Russell in a fervour of Olympic excitement handed him the laurel crown and in doing so transformed his painting from a study into a narrative that accessions the space beyond the picture so that the viewer wonders where the model's gaze is leading and what is the story that is unfolding. It's a simple device but an effective one. Maybe on the East Coast in those long dark nights with a slate black sea and the mists tumbling from the claggy moors down to the desolate rocks below, stories are told and myths are born. Bren, the Sage of Scarborough, can't help herself and like Russell she has to tell a story. However the stories Bren tells are full of tragedy, they are laments for a defeated life, tragic faces imbued with the spirit of loss, wraith like, melancholy twins dredged from the subconcious and paradoxically created in the Life Room. I always think of Fiona's slab assembled heads in the same way, their life is within, their gaze directed inwards like parched Peruvian mummies they speak of a rich past and bone bare future.
In recent times (on Thursday anyway) we've had young vital models, somehow appropiate for our current celebration of healthy, wholesome youth, I think Guy suggested resting strength, like a competitor awaiting his turn. Russell said, he felt the session had an air of tranquility about it, and I agreed, it was the tranquility of problems being solved in a considered way, having extra time is a bonus. In her last post Sandra mentioned her search for the poetic, the paradoxical quest for the ineffable in the physical, Bren has found it, Teresa also, Russell has gone for the long epic poem and I think Sandra heself is there with an ethereal blue and delicate highlights suggesting something revelatory.
Blue as we know is the colour of Heaven as imagined by Giotto and the blue Emma chose is a particularly warm cobalt, sky type of blue. It's a blue that enables the fleshy pinks and fiery oranges to glow, a blue that locks all the other colours into a harmonious whole, it is in fact a heavenly blue. Emma's work is the kind of work that just looks good at every stage like one of those infuriating people who just look lovely however you photograph them (Jessica Ennis fits this category). So often the temptation is to say, stop it looks great but you know half an hour later it will still look wonderful so you watch and wait and see what twists and turns it will take. I'm always pleased when Emma joins our circus as her high wire act is always a joy to watch, there might be a wobble here and a stutter there but altogether it's enthralling. The Kitaj colours and the mythic stance make it a tremendous piece of work, I really like it.
Finally I would like to say it was good to see Colin and Sandra again, both getting into their stride and producing fine pieces of work and also Ann who made a lovely careful drawing where each detail was scrutinized with unsparing precision, is this the antidote to the burgeoning poetic tendency?
PS. Tony really nailed that curly hair and wispy beard although the scheming look seems a little unfair and reminds me so precisely of a young Peter Ustinov as the awful Nero in Quo Vadis.
Steven has a drawing on show at the Edinburgh College of Art, you can see it here
Russell has an exhibition of his work at Ken Spelman's Bookshop, York, details here
Tony has a portrait on show at the National Portrait Gallery, details here
Paintings, drawings and constructions by Ann, Bren, Cathy, Colin, David, Fiona (1&2), Hadyn, Russell, Sandra C, Sandra, Steven, Teresa, Tom, Tony and featured artist Emma.