40 COMPOSITE DRAWINGS OF FEMALE NUDES
In 2005 I started a series of drawings of the nude, after an intense period of doctoral research in art history, when I didn’t have time to do my pictures. The things I took from my studies were all fairly general ones about the course of 20th century art and didn’t offer any immediate application to my own work. It told me where my work was situated stylistically, but not what I ought to do about that.
My inclinations were to return to the figure, after spending time on just interiors and urban landscapes. I was wondering how fragmented, disjoint or strange the figure needs be, to still carry the kind of charge I’m looking for. Using nudes put the issue on its starkest terms. Previous work had built on a contrast between presentation and representation (or display and picture) as a whole/parts arrangement. That did not really apply here. I was not alluding to pin-ups or some standard genre involving bathing or undress. All the same, the active, upright poses have an air of acting or play and to me at least, there is a distinctly photographic element to forms, to lighting and tonality and shifts of focus, that perhaps suggest some kind of movie – even if a home movie. The photographic elements are blended with drawing or painting however, distancing a story or scene, so that privacy here becomes a coy, fleeting thing.
The collage element – diverse parts – is not easily formalised or formulated for drawing. Starting from a set pose and trying to widen or incorporate diverse parts never really achieved escape velocity for me. It’s something I’m still working on. I used Muybridge photos a lot, mostly ending in cartoons. There were around 30 in the series. They only really came to life when I decided to try and collage them into the interiors I had. Suddenly they had a context and the pictures became about moments of privacy or Private Lives, as I first thought of them (like still lives, but with people). These were my first crude attempts at compositing. I’d used an A4 format knowing I could scan the drawings on my little scanner and maybe rework them somehow in Photoshop – teach myself something about digital graphics this way. I’d scan them in, perhaps resize them, then print them out, cut them out and place them over the interiors and rescan the combination. I bungled the file types somehow and ended up with a lot of bitmaps at one point, which is why some of the images are very grainy, I think. I never did get back to rescanning them.
I had 28 interiors and 30 figures and the permutations in combining them of course run into hundreds. Over 2007-8 I built up 88 variations, sometimes using more than one figure. That’s too many even for a self-indulgent blog, but I am going to post 40. I would love to have made paintings of these, but I still didn’t have a studio or an income to afford one.