September 21, 2023


Art For Everyone

Celia Paul, Gwen John and Curtis Holder

7 min read


I lately wrote a submit a couple of small Celia Paul etching I got here throughout in the Marlborough Gallery. I’ve since been taking a look at her drawings and amongst a number of very completely different pictures discovered the self portrait drawing above. I actually discover it fascinating, because it has echoes of a number of the issues I’ve been attempting to do myself. The pinnacle feels as if it may very well be made out of blending and flowing gases, completely different textural energies merge into one another, in order that the pinnacle seems to float into visibility. On the identical time it’s nonetheless a head, the eyes appear shut and a second of stability happens across the ear. As the pinnacle twists away from me, I determine one thing in my very own thoughts concerning the inside gaze of this shut eyed determine; pondering that what it’s doing is not directly asserting its personal inside gaze over my very own. It’s highly effective with out having to be constructed with all the standard indicators of energy. As an alternative of creating a drawing of a head as stable as a rock, by drawing it from a low viewpoint, carving it out with tonal plenty or through the use of cross contour strains, this portrait arrives through the use of fumage like methods. I’ve been asking myself, how do you draw vitality? How do you draw a physique and on the identical time mirror on it as a specific set of occasions that emerge out of and again into the vitality stream? This drawing appears to pulse with psychic vitality and has a presence, so turns into for myself, a pointer, a sign of a doable route to take.

The problem of ‘presence’ and what that really is, is one other of these conundrums that has been on my thoughts lately. What kind of presence are you able to give to somebody or one thing that’s depicted inside a picture? How does it relate to the precise presence of the individual or factor portrayed? Celia Paul is sadly generally identified extra for her relationship with Lucien Freud than for her personal work, Gwen John was initially identified extra as a mannequin or ‘muse’ in relation to the rather more well-known Rodin. Steadily through the years Gwen John has been seen much less and fewer as a lover of Rodin and increasingly more as an necessary artist in her personal proper. This displays a shift in society and what was at one level seen as a collection of attributes of the ‘female’ and due to this fact not necessary, is now learn in a really completely different manner. The ‘quiet’ portraits of Gwen John, categorical dignity, the significance of an interior voice and calm management. The curve that the composition beneath relies on, is relatively like a strung bow, it’s taut and stuffed with managed vitality. The ‘presence’ of the sitter is undoubted, however it’s not the kind of presence you affiliate with the grand portrait custom of necessary folks. This portray acknowledges and presents the presence of a mortal soul, one that also manages to mission a definite aura, regardless of a scarcity of bravura paint vitality. In reality the vitality pulse comes from the restricted palette, the greys that encompass the face and fingers, permitting the delicate warms of perceived pores and skin tones, to glow with life.  

Gwen John: Chloë Boughton-Leigh: Leeds Metropolis Artwork Gallery

Whenever you take a look at Gwen John’s drawings you additionally see this commentary of quietness. The fragility of life is glimpsed in her portraits of different ladies and women, however it’s not a weak fragility, it’s one maintained through a steely resolve that sits beneath a quiet exterior. 

Gwen John: Research of a woman

Gwen John: Research of a kid

Celia Paul has an identical robust fragility. I like the way in which that she stares again at you from these drawings. She is aware of the worth of her personal presence, she does not have to glorify her existence, it merely is. 

Celia Paul: Self portrait: 2007

Celia Paul: Self portrait: Watercolour and colored pencils

Celia Paul’s self portrait, made with watercolour and colored pencils above, not solely ‘simply exists’ of floats into being, it appears to balefully stare out as if acknowledging her personal uneasiness about being an artist. This mushy nearly not there presence, after some time turns into relatively uncomfortable to take a look at; she appears to ask, “What are you taking a look at?” Her presence defiantly current in what’s such an initially insubstantially seeming picture. 

Curtis Holder was the 2020 winner of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Yr competitors. A televised competitors that I’ve beforehand criticised for being about tv and never portray or drawing. Even so I believe it’s price taking a look at a few of Holder’s drawings, as I consider he’s an artist that has managed to return via due to actual advantage, his work holding up on the TV display in addition to within the flesh. Within the context I am writing about as we speak, it’s in the way in which he attracts what I’m starting to consider as vitality fields, or how to attract gentle as each particle and wave, that pursuits me. He’s additionally drawn to Gwen John as an artist and has made a portrait of her.

Curtis Holder: Gwen John: 2021

Holder’s portrait of Gwen John is a kind of pictures that emerges from a flickering ‘rain’ of strains. He will need to have labored from a flat picture, as Gwen John is lengthy useless, however he raises her again into being by discovering her picture in these strains as they reduce via the floor of his paper. I’m barely apprehensive concerning the darkish line that curves round an fringe of hair, it feels as if it’s a leftover from an earlier method, (one you can even see outlining the shoulders) however in addition to that I believe the drawing is a wonderful method to creating a homage of an artist that has clearly had an affect on him. 

The very best of Holder’s drawings have a high quality that permits you to maintain mass and vitality as two issues in your thoughts directly, specifically I assumed the way in which that the orange of the what I believe is a self-portrait beneath, drifted out into the house across the determine, was an fascinating machine, because it added another manner of coping with time. The pale residue of orange powder, (I presume it’s from faint dustings of pastel, however as I have not seen the precise drawing it may very well be traces of a watercolour wash) sits subsequent to the heightened depth of his orange pullover, in an identical strategy to an afterimage. Not as an optical reverse, however as a suggestion of an orange transferring via house, of a former existence. 

Curtis Holder

The mushy orange within the picture above I additionally started to learn as a form of ghost, and it jogged my memory of one other small drawing of Celia Paul’s, ‘Mandy with wings’. 

Celia Paul: Mandy with wings 2007

Her drawing ‘Mandy with Wings’ is a fantastic small reminder of the right way to discover magic within the on a regular basis. I think the wings that Mandy now has on this picture have been initially Mandy’s shadow solid onto a wall behind her, however Paul has seen one other risk and within the tilt of the pinnacle and suggestion of a monk’s behavior made by a few strains traced over Mandy’s shoulder, a fragile non secular thought has floated into being.  

Celia Paul: Mom with clasped fingers 2007

In Paul’s drawing of her mom with clasped fingers above, the ‘punctum’ for myself is the darkish line that stretches from her mom’s neck all the way down to her fingers. It is like a scar that cuts the determine in two. The vertical strains of the laid paper reinforce the thinness of the picture and the hand clenching the opposite hand’s fingers, suggests a nervous consciousness of a scenario that the eyes can barely take a look at. I discovered one other drawing of Paul’s mom on a scrap of torn paper, its informality suggesting that she did not need to make to a lot of the scenario, a observe made in a second, maybe in such a manner that she did not disturb her mom. Maybe I am studying my very own narrative into the drawing, as I properly keep in mind how different folks used to react if I made a decision to attract them, it all the time appeared such an intrusion, so I tended to make drawings of individuals surreptitiously. 

Celia Paul: Mom

Celia Paul additionally attracts utilizing watercolour and etching. Once more I discovered her method fascinating. Whoever Mandy is, Celia Paul appears to have the ability to discover the non secular in her. On this occasion, ‘Mandy in Daylight’ she offers her pal a yellow halo, and the ‘sunlit head’ beneath, which I presume can be a picture of Mandy, suggests even deeper non secular consciousness, closed eyes in each circumstances intimating the presence of somebody who’s deeply involved together with her interior world. 

Celia Paul: Mandy in daylight

Celia Paul: Solar lit head

Within the small etching beneath it’s Paul that stares out at us once more, her face off centre, unable to ‘face’ filling the body, by some means avoiding direct head to head contact, but on the identical time capable of stare you out. One eye barely decrease than the opposite, the picture rising like others out of a haze of marks, this time those that an etching plate permits you to make, particularly when it’s wiped by hand. 

Celia Paul: Self-portrait Etching

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