When I was a student (yawn, not again.....)
teaching progressed on the gruel today, cakes tomorrow principle, deferred pleasure was the norm, from girls to beer, from colour to oil paint you had to hang on and take the necessary introductory steps before you plunged in all wide eyed and eager. Caution was the byword then, it still is now but sometimes you just want to let rip and think, what the hell, who cares, I'm leaping in and I'm going to do something shocking - even though in truth probably the only person who will be shocked is you.
In life drawing so often we conform to notions of accuracy, we want to get it right and those who do are quite rightly admired, there is still something lovely about a well wrought drawing, beautifully observed and sensitively rendered. But don't you just now and again want a blast of something raucous, something tasteless, something uncouth and challenging, I know I do. At times, gruel can appear a little thin, a bit meagre, insubstantial even. You could say it was not sufficiently nourishing to release the latent creativity that I'm sure lies within all of us. I know that sounds a bit Californian, a touch West Coast, even a bit Tim Robbins-ish with his mantra of 'releasing the giant within' or some such words but I'm sure you know what I mean.
When I see a piece of work that appears to be gorging cake I love it. Patrick last night was on a bender (art wise), he got out the big brushes and produced an ambitious work of real authority. Using basic colours and simple acrylics he slashed and hacked at his image almost sculpting the form out of his grey card base. Whilst bold and savage in parts it's also a work of keen observation and careful handling but and this is the important bit , the energy and freshness of its execution remains intact. This is the part of the equation so hard to solve, the balance between bold energy and accuracy, so often one is sacrificed to the other but in this case both are balanced perfectly. More than anything this work reminds me of the rawness and anarchy of the German Expressionists who were looking for something elemental to express the horror of the German Reich, no sophistication or timidity for them, they wanted a direct link to something basic and true that we still find affecting today.
Kay is a great model, so static and full of interest but she also has an enigmatic look that is difficult to capture, rarely have I seen it caught accurately. Last night Tony came close with Sue not far behind, likeness is such a slippery subject that when we see it we like to celebrate it. I always enjoy the feeling that the artist got it just right especially when it's been done from life. But there is also a likeness to be had from the body as well as the face and many people were successful including Ian who used the principle of cold shadows and warm highlights to good effect, Jean also made a good debut and Paul's subtle and fragmentary drawings are always inspiring. Frank another debutante produced a powerful and substantial charcoal drawing demonstrating a confident use of chiaroscuro creating weight and presence in the process. Sandra produced an untypical small painting that did the exact opposite, revelling in the uncertainty of marks and dissolution of edges, more an emanation than a portrait. Sandra, a natural abstractionist seemed on the verge of wholeheartedly plunging into the pool of abstraction, maybe if we held hands we could jump in together, I quite fancy a dip, it could be refreshing. Sometimes a bold step is made that bit easier with a companion although I suspect Sandra, a pathfinder doesn't need such reassurances.
Chris created an interesting juxtaposition between background and foreground, look carefully and you will see a wonderful dark line tracing the profile of Kay that jumps ship and continues to become the edge of the background figure. It's one of those things that should be wrong but it's right. Life drawing is full of those sorts of contradictions, often that's what makes it interesting and so compulsive. Have a good time next week, I'll be in India but I'll be thinking about you and wondering what solutions you'll find to those age old problems we confront every week at Redbrick Mill.
Paintings and drawings by Chris, David, Frank, Ian, Jean, Paul, Roger, Sandra, Steven, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Patrick.