Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Knees and Toes............
Do you remember the 'Community Theatre Group' in the League of Gentleman? They were memorably called, 'Legs Akimbo', and for some reason I spent the whole evening with that fantastic word,'Akimbo', fluttering around in my head. This developed into 'Legs Astrideo', 'Hips Aswivelo' and the memorable 'Thighs Athrusto', surely a character for my next novel. Sue, a real novelist provided the inspiration for this lexicon of characters, released from her cage of confinement and with a low table as a prop, she presented us with a series of tableaux from the unchained slave girl (a Victorian favourite amongst eroto-sculptors with a classical bent) to the Paula Rego classic, Dog Woman. No complaints about viewpoint as the twenty minute rotation meant what you lost on the swings you undoubtably gained on the roundabout and so it was, one challenge arriving after the other, each pose a prompt to look hard, pay attention, even those at the back and get looking because more than anything this is an exercise in perception and processing.
For some of us the ride is breathtaking, we hold on and hope for the best, for others, there is a planned considered approach with a strategy being played out and the work is a designed thing with drawings distributed evenly, a consistent method of approach, each twenty minute used efficiently and effectively, no one drawing is favoured above another. I like this, it's like a good teacher ensuring everyone gets their fair share of attention, but I also like Ian's ragged supply teacher approach where breathlessly he manages the latest crises. I almost imagine his look of surprise as the pose ends and another takes it's place, he scrambles for the paint, any colour will do and dashes down a record with all the intuitive urgency of a solitary witness recording an ever receding number plate. It's good and honest and true without the prissy artifice of art and I like that.
Yesterday was a day for drawing and there were some good ones, the brittle line of Sandra stands out to me in both pieces of work as does Ivan's merciless observations, Andrew's robust, no nonsense approach chimes with Sue's relentless objectivity. Patrick's drawing more than anything reminded me of a grainy photograph of a detail from Rodin's masterpiece, 'The Gates of Hell', all writhing bodies and despair, it has the fin de siecle feeling of a tear in the skin of a civilized world (must stop thinking about bloody George Osborne)!
Hilary got organized, no faffing about or false starts, it was hands and feet and that's it, next week it could possibly be knees and toes or heads and shoulders, we shall have to wait and see. Whichever it is, there is no questioning the acuity of the observation and the honesty of the endeavour, the information gathered and the quality of each is outstanding. It's a drawing that you feel could be used, a functional drawing, a genuine study towards something greater. I remember once looking at the countless pages of drawings Singer Sargent made towards his great mural at the Boston Public Library.
In his drawings you can see real information being gathered and absorbed whilst solutions to visual problems are found. I'm sure when Hilary next draws a hand or foot, whatever the pose, she will find it so much easier and her drawing will have within it the authority of real acquired knowledge. It was a good use of an evening ,which was true for everyone, the shame was, there wasn't more of us but I daresay short poses don't necessarily appeal to all.
My paintings are trying to tick two boxes, first I have a show next year and I would like to have a large collection of small random oils to hang together which accounts for one of the paintings. The other is my latest attempt to find a way to describe the figure whilst only being loosely attached to reality, in other words to paint the painting as much as painting the figure. The proportions vary and sometimes you have more figure than painting and in this case more painting than figure. It interests me to see how far the notion of figure can be stretched and last night Matthew, I was Keith Vaughan.
by Tom Wood
Paintings and Drawings by Andrew, Cathy, Hadyn, Ian, Ivan, Patrick, Sandra (2), Sue, Tom (2), Tony and featured artist Hilary.