08 April 2007

Reclining, declining, nude

A reclining woman turns, directing her naked body away from her husband towards a viewing audience, thighs opening, breasts splayed in different directions (one defying gravity, or so it would appear) In the near disance, something rises between the couple; a high-rise tenement, one of those nasty constructions, quickly made with cheap building materials, while dark storm-clouds gather overhead: a structure unlikely to last, some would say, quite like their relationship; a phallic symbol- belonging to which of the two?- others would remark.

Returning to the woman, surely the most immediately striking characteristic is her physical strength, in particular that chiseled jaw, those muscular arms and legs. She tries to look natural and relaxed, although one can almost feel her stiffness, her rigidity, the artificiality of her pose. A harsh brightness strikes her upper body, as if a spotlight were constantly turned upon it, leaving parts cast in shadow, throwing a hint of shadowy green to her shoulder and making parts of her flesh look almost gangrenous. As for those legs, do they not appear to belong to another, younger woman?

Harsh is the first word that springs to mind when describing her facial expression, and yet there is something desparate, something weak and pleading in her eyes... but what is she trying to express? Please buy my new DVD,please buy my next record, perhaps?

Who is this stealing through a drab grey curtain (not a lush, green-coloured one, please note) to lay a thick paw on her over-aerobicised thigh?As for the man in the background, looking at her in blank adoration... well, 'blank' is perhaps the best way of describing the oafish expression of that hulking , yet somehow inconsequential, neanderthal figure, left in the disregarded shadow that she has cast. For the woman does not want his attention; it is YOUR attention that she wants, anonymous public viewer.

So, gentle reader, what do you think of Peter Howson's latest portrait, on display at the Gatehouse Gallery in Glasgow? Who could it depict?

Apparently, the main subject of this piece is an avid collector of the artist's work; one tends to agree with Ms Marina Hyde, that if someone was painting pictures like this of you, you'd be removing them from the market, whatever the cost.

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