My mother, who has been very ill lately, was an art school glamourpuss in the 1950s, a contemporary at Chelsea of Patrick Caulfield, who she remembers working silently at the other end of the studio from her at lunchtimes. I mention this because for years she has been trying to persuade me to read a favourite novel of hers, The Horse's Mouth, by Joyce Carey, and finally, I am. The protagonist is the impoverished, comic, small time crook and public nuisance Gully Jimson, who is also a brilliant painter. Here he watches his friend Coker sleeping:
"I sat up to take a look at her. Face like a child. Breathing like a baby. She turned over like a child. Sudden earthquake. Gave a sigh, threw one arm over the blanket. Deep all the time. And what a forearm. Marble in the moon. Muscled like an Angelo, but still a woman's. Nothing obvious. Modelling like a violin solo. The sweetest elbow I ever saw, and that's a difficult joint. No fat above the wrist but a smooth fall into the metacarpals. Just enough structure to give the life and the power. Bless the girl, I thought, she's a beauty, and she doesn't know it."
Tom talked in a break about finding the beautiful thing in the model, about the model as a springboard for the ideas he is exploring, and I was reminded of that paragraph, and organs came and went in Tom's rendering of Joseph, whose body radiates youth, health, strength. Anne, who works at the hospital, said that the black shadow in Joseph's lung made her think inevitably of cancer. We all bring who we are, what we know, what's on our minds, to the life room, and it's there, implicit or explicit, in yesterday's drawings. You can feel the heat of the day in Sandra's melting, dripping colours and in the beauiful brittle line of her initial drawings, especially the lovely left handed one. David's piece seemed to me to shimmer with heat haze, and is my personal favourite; I enjoy the order emerging from seeming chaos. Steven by contrast has it all under control, plumbed and mirrored, and yet there's still a looseness in the paint which is so nice. Anne gave us Joseph's torso so well, all muscle in patches of colour, despite the acrylics drying as they hit the palette. Patrick's great red statement has power and heat, again the heat, needed another day to do justice to the scale. Louise and Chris seemed to me to work in the spirit of Gully Jimson's elbow, Louise with an excellent mouth, Chris a terrific knee. Ian did a good job with jaw and collarbones, which always give me gyp. I love the angle of Tony's painting - I was pleased to be slightly lower down myself - it was a great pose with the haughty raised head, as Tom said, a prince in waiting. And I must say I did enjoy watching and listening - straight from the horse's mouth - as Tom played out his ideas. None of us melted.! Great day.
Paintings and drawings by Anne, Chris, David, Emma, Ian, Louise, Patrick, Sandra, Steven, Tom and Tony.