I am presently flying mg with easyJet over Greece on my way to turkey.
And am writing about whatever is in my mind. which at present is my relationship with portraiture.
I am the daughter of a Victorian maker of portraits I was his model until he died, I was 9.
My experience was bittersweet. The bitter is of the excruciating agony of sitting for hours on end in one position, fully conscious of a hair going out of place and the urge to pull out all the pins in my head holding my hair in place, and needing to run, and play, and the sweet in contrast the joy of being scrutinised and seen by my father. I knew he was looking deep into my eyes and scanning my face if only to get the pupils and the point of light in the correct place but while that was happening, I also looked into his eyes.
Deep and fascinating with the hugest grey eyebrows which I called fuzzy, his glasses were horn rimmed but held together with a massive bulge of brown picture framing tape, my physical position was always erect and alert, slightly turned usually wearing a cotton shift petticoat, so the experience could be quite cold.
The studio had his bed in the corner a chest of draws, a tool chest, with a model ship, a telescope which we could look out over the sea. We sat opposite the old fishing village in hastings.
Back to the present on the aeroplane and My recollections are overtaken with a bag of monster munch which is dominating my senses. There is a person sitting behind me eating crunchy filth. One I can hear all his jaw movements and slurping of his tongue and two whatever the filth is that he is eating stinks like a chemical factory, and I want to kill him. I would be happier if the bastard had shit himself. And I can’t wait until I either acclimatize my senses or the bugger passes out.
So back to the intense intimacy of the artist’s studio where I am a little four year old girl , trying to catch my father’s eyes with mine and sitting awkwardly with the terror of relaxing and losing my position which happened regularly, then daddy would lift his pencil , make me look at it and then move it for me to follow to get me back into the hell pose I had already sat in , for hours , days . months, ever.
Crackling in the corner of the studio is an enamelled wood burning stove. With little purlised windows and a collection of toasting forks in the grate.
Sometimes we took a break and warmed by the fire and toasted packs of sliced white bread. The smell was delicious and warming, he stayed silent. We all just enjoyed each other’s company and the sensations of warm fresh bread and burning wood. I loved it when the doors of the stove were open as it poured out the heat and I knew some toast was coming my way, and when the doors were closed, and the opalescent windows shimmered with the flames behind it.
A similar ritual took place over a bar of chocolate. One small bar was very carefully cut into pieces and savoured salivated and wanting more. The idea was to get the sensation of the sweetness and that would be enough. Sweets and chocolate were a rarity in our house. But black treacle sandwiches made up for that.
We were never overindulged with food or toys, but our imagination was very well looked after and encouraged. Stories were being told; things were being made. It was a space of existence and growth.
Daddy’s drawing practice was based on observation, romanticism and quality of line, his hero was Augustus Johns who’s club he belonged to where they all met in the café royal. His was an elite group of British artists that went to the Slade school of art in London in the early 1900`s
One of the members was a Major Tonks who daddy admired and had dealing with in the first world war. Jaggers the sculptor and maker of 1st world war memorials and modernist heroic male heads. All very much keeping their practice and tradition alive while on the continent Picasso and Duran were breaking boundaries in cultural representation crossing practices in line with Freudian and Jungian phycology and breaking the picture plane into fragments of abstraction with African references. Daddy insisted on not using cameras and stuck to depicting northern women in shawls and clogs. Hardnosed fiercely against art schools and anything modern we lived a similar existence to the offspring of Augustus John. A Victorian.
My experience of the medium was coloured by this jump in generations. I grew up as a Victorian, with an authoritarian Victorian father.
My ideal was to re-create this world, where I was scrutinised and loved and had the freedom to practice with traditional materials . this left me in a state of shock when I did eventually attend art school, Goldsmiths in London.
I knew I had a whole generation of art history to catchup with and understand, but I needed to work this out within myself before I could move on to where the academy of Goldsmiths post modernism wanted me to be. But it meant nothing to me. And as much as I tried to explain my circumstance of birth, they didn’t understand either. So, I specialised in drawing sculpting and photographing portraits for three years , and managed to scrape through a pass on a purely conceptual course.
So squashed seats screaming babies, air conditioning, monster munch, smelly feet, toilet queues and the insect drone of loud headphones. At some point I will land in Dalman airport and join the queues of ex Europeans ready to get a little bit o much m needed sun and if I’m lucky clean sea.