OUT OF THE DARKNESS by Russell Lumb
Last evening’s power failure at Redbrick Mill, portentously pulling the plug on the sole cultural contribution of this glittering retail bazaar, lasted long enough, at 70 minutes, to settle in the memory and provide countless opportunities for a blogger in search of a hook.
Government cuts in arts funding, the precarious state of global energy sourcing, the search for spiritual enlightenment and the comradeship of the blitz are some of the possibilities, but two other aspects of the event strike me as particularly significant; the role of the electrician and Tom’s capacity for engineering an opportunity from a difficult situation.
Before his appearance to solve the problem in seconds, the Resident Electrician’s reputation was declining rapidly. But, irrespective of his parentage, this was a man, briefly unavailable because he was donating blood for the benefit of his fellows, on who’s specialist knowledge our hopes for the evening hung by a thread. He duly delivered his crucial contribution, and we swarmed back into life group formation, like a flight of starlings, our debt forgotten. Such is the intricate, interdependence of modern life, that it is not surprising that we do not progress our days constantly recognising each other’s contributions. Nor do we dwell on our own, but this sort of event should give pause for thought. My portrait will be titled ””Kaye 5, Out of the Darkness” .
Chiaroscuro, a word which must have had greater currency in the days before electrical lighting, sprang to mind immediately Tom emerged out of the darkness carrying tripod and camera. A number of people had remarked upon the new, soft tonality of the studio, as eyes became accustomed to the minimal light seeping in through windows and rooflights, but Tom was not content to think about it. The ragged, fearful band gathered around the guttering oil lamp was cajoled into a series of slow motion tableaux to be captured by the exultant photographer, pausing only to curse Francis Bacon and Michelangelo Caravaggio for beating him to it. I fully expected that Kaye would be required to adopt a two position pose with slow movement between, lit only by encircling I Phones.
This was, for me, a timely reminder of Tom’s emphasis on recognising, enjoying and optimising the opportunities presented by chance. I am wary of manufacturing such chances but freely acknowledge the benefits of being receptive, whilst directing one’s efforts. I continue to search for the elusive balance between intention and accident, in abstract painting and life study, where the power failure identified a continuous dilemma.
Not all, but most of us use light and shade to model the figure or portrait, and the greatest exponent of this technique was Caravaggio. It would be fascinating to know how he set up and lit the models, and how he lit his working plane, as the two requirements are so different. In our studio, with artists all around the model, it feels appropriate to light evenly so that everyone can see clearly, but this flattens the features and denies the power of strong shadow and directional lighting. Perhaps dramatic lighting can only be achieved for a single artist or a small group, but it would be good to experiment?
On that note, I must record the latest experiment in technique to enter the studio with David’s I- Pad rendering of Kaye. Not a new technique and not one that has attracted me in the past, but it does have unique qualities, particularly in distribution, which will see it find a place in our regular activity. It’s not compulsory and it is not challenging other media, so have a go, use it where appropriate, and we can all stumble out of the darkness together.
Paintings and drawings by Catherine, David (1&2) Hadyn, Hilary, Ian, Ivan, Jane, Janet, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sandra, Steven, Tom, Tony and Yvonne.