i. Christmas has been and gone. Becky bought me my best present: an out-of-print book about Auerbach drawing at the National Gallery which I've been after for quite some time! It was a lovely, busy, family-filled week but now I'm looking forward to getting back into some sort of normal routine. I've made lots of drawings of friends and family over the festive period. I hope these will develop into some larger prints next term.
ii. The Friday before Christmas I met up with Jon Dixon in Bath to deliver some artwork that I've been looking after since our exhibition together over the summer. We also swapped some drawings and visited Howard Hodgkin: India on Paper at the Victoria Art Gallery. I love Hodgkin's expressive and painterly use of printmaking using carborundum, lithography and hand painting (something to consider in my own work?). This was my second visit to the show and no less exciting.
iii. I've managed to see a few exhibitions during my time off. From Life at the Royal Academy describes itself as asking 'what it means to make art from life, and how the practice is evolving as technology opens up new ways of making and seeing.' Although the show itself was underwhelming, it did contain some brilliant work, particularly a new series of self-portraits by Chantal Joffe. Joffe describes her self-portraits as therapeutic: 'when things are hard in my life I will paint myself. It is a way of saying I am okay... It's a way of owning it, of holding onto a moment. Painting is the absolute present tense of a moment.'
These new artworks are particularly pertinent as I work towards an exhibition of self-portraits next year that I am in and co-curating. I've made several self-portraits in the past but it is Joffe that has inspired the print I am working on for the show: a straight-on, naked self-portrait. It feels important to me to make a deadpan image of myself without any swagger or self-fashioning. By stripping (literally) things back to basic I feel I can then start again, and start moving forward with my practice and make some new portraits of others.
iv. I also went to see Soutine's Portraits at the Courtauld Gallery: it was the best exhibition I've seen in a long, long time. The show brings together a series of portraits of French hotel and restaurant workers from the early 1920s. Although Soutine’s sitters are unnamed and distorted through paint, they are recognisably individuals, full of humanity, feeling and personality. ‘Though Soutine may project his… most personal feelings on to his subjects, the viewer never loses sight of a particular physical entity being carefully observed and experienced. Even the distortions and exaggerations of facial features and the shiftings and dislocations of body parts do not destroy the essential recognition in each painting of a certain person and a reality specific to him or her.’