Lucian Freud created an entirely new genre in the depiction of the human figure. His ‘naked portraits’ present subjects as pure animal forms not dissimilar from inanimate still life objects, while at the same time rendering painted flesh with an extraordinary, penetrating humanity. ‘A Not So Still Life’ presents Freud’s late large paintings ‘Naked portrait in a red chair’ (1999) and ‘David and Eli’ (2003–4). By turns clinical and intimate, stark and tender, the works resulted from weeks of intense sitting by and scrutiny of the artist’s subjects. While the woman in the first portrait goes unnamed, the second picture identifies Freud’s two most constant companions: his long-time studio assistant and friend David Dawson, and his whippet Eli. Both paintings evidence Freud’s almost ruthless process of observation and forensic reckoning of the human body. “Living people interest me far more than anything else,” Freud stated. “I’m really interested in them as animals. The one thing about human animals is their individuality: liking to work from them naked is part of that reason, because I can see more.” Continue Reading
Louise Riley embroiders human figures using a mattress as a canvas. Usually in repose, these figures create an intimate experience for the viewer. Riley’s work demonstrates a fine attention to detail and color shading, rendering vulnerable and realistic characters out of linear and geometric forms. Part of her practice includes that of altering the flat shape of the mattress, creating rolls and curves in her mattress-canvas, or cutting shapes into or on the mattress.
From her artist statement, “When I am sewing figures, I think of the thread being strands of DNA and the stitches binary codes and the fabric (our second skin anyway) a grid and that leads me onto String theory, experiences happening alongside each other with endless alternative outcomes. These grandiose thoughts are what get me through the hours. The literal abundance of fabric and thread as domestic content and construction, not limited to gender, makes our relationship to it very intimate. I use the mattress as a backgroundless background that holds weight of experience conceptually, spiritually and physically. Blood, sweat and tears like tree rings in its core. Its presence in our rights of passage, our sleep, rest, thoughts, dreams, the theatre of life spilled out onto it. How could I work on anything else! It is a ready-made canvas, it allows my ideas to penetrate it and collaborate with it to unearth a supposed breath-taking, yet ordinary, history or herstory.”