With a change of studio imminent, I find myself caught between desperately wanting to begin a number of new paintings, but firstly having the pressure of trying to complete work-in-progress, some of which has been in progress many months. So with new ideas on hold, (and it’s amazing how many ideas for new work you can have while waiting), it’s time to resolve a painting or two before packing up the studio, unpacking and re-discovering everything as quickly as possible in order to begin again.
However, today I needed some inspiration and re-visited Lucian Freud Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery with a painter friend. Since my first visit a few weeks ago I had been thinking a lot about LF’s paintings and of my first impressions of the exhibition. It was good to be able to have another look at the works that jumped out at me last time, and discussing them with a fellow painter. We spent a long time looking closely at a few of the paintings, comparing paint-handling, psychology, mood, colour, and the lack of it!
The early works from the 1950’s drew me in once again, and the small portrait of Annabel was even more striking second time round. This small portrait is rich in colour when compared to a number of the paintings of this period, and to the others hung within the same gallery. I particularly like the composition of the painting and the way in which the head filled the rectangle, as often seen in Freuds portraits. Of LF’s later work, the portrait of Freddy Standing was one of the most striking, a simple standing pose which captures the models vulnerability.
Leaving the NPG we then found real inspiration at the new Euan Uglow exhibition Radical Clarity at Browse & Darby, 19 Cork St. This exhibition which opened last week and continues until 11th May 2012 brings together drawings and paintings both familiar and unfamiliar. This exhibition seems to be a pure celebration of colour when compared to the austere and stark palette of Freud. I had last seen a number of the paintings at the 2006 exhibition Euan Uglow – A Personal Choice by Craigie Aitchison, and it was good to have an opportunity to study them closely again. This collection of still lifes, portraits and nudes for me have a tranquil and meditative air to them. The small still life of Two Green Apples has a beautiful serenity to it.
This stunning profile of Marigold is beautifully executed. The patches of colour describing the planes and facets moving around the head, remarkably simplified. The essential information is distilled from the whole, with colour passages separated by a very subtle transitions in tone and temperature. The drawing, re-positioning and evaluation, in particular around the jaw demonstrates the process and development of the painting. This aspect of the ‘history’ of the painting and it’s mark-making always excites me about Euans work. The portrait, is particularly pertinent to me at the moment in reference to the palette of a small nude I am working on of Matthew Sleeping.
The brushwork of the reclining Nude of an Italian Girl remains very fluid and sketchy, almost as if the painting remains unfinished. It has an incredible energy and life to it. The cool flesh tones are further enhanced by the beautiful coloured greys of the background. Drawing and revisions are made, as in all Euan’s paintings in colour which gives an exciting linear quality. I love the drawing made over the knees of the nude below and on the arms of the chair. The brushwork is very fluid and expressive.
So, I am hoping that after studying these beautiful paintings I am now inspired, and ready for my last sitting on my latest portrait of Beth tomorrow, with enough energy remaining for my still life While waiting for the model I.