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I think a life without art would be a life less lived. Music’s my passion, but I would love to be able to paint a masterpiece.
I’m lucky enough to know a few friends who, when putting brush to canvas, or even pencil to paper, create beauty. I’m totally in awe of them!
I’m not a painting aficionado, but I think I can appreciate talent. And I reckon anyone who sees Lorna Wadsworth’s pieces would no doubt say the same.
Throughout school and university, she has honed her unique skills in capturing the human form in charcoal or oil paint. She has a natural eye for capturing detail to photographic-like quality. And her technical skills match her artistic flair, by employing a vast array of painstaking methods to create work taking hold of your senses.
Most of her recent work is big and covered in gold leaf, and therefore expensive. To make her Art available to anyone who might want to start a collection she had the idea of launching a ‘Diffusion Line’, almost like D&G to Dolce and Gabbana, as a way of making art affordable to all.
100 PICTURES, 100 POUNDS!
Called ‘100 Pictures, 100 Pounds!’ the idea is as simple and brilliant as it sounds. You can have a look at her pop up website http://www.100pictures100pounds.com, although I’m not sure how longer the project will be live, so get clicking fast!
While most world-renowned artists are all highly talented, it seems luck seems to play a big part. ‘Hyping-up’ of artists, creating a ‘buzz’ around a particular exhibition, and a few well-placed media stories can create a seemingly exponential projection of the chosen few into the media stratosphere. But becoming the word on everyone’s lips doesn’t seem all that fair when such methods serve to not only grossly inflate art prices, but also deny many artists at least as talented the chance to succeed. Often all it takes is circumstance, a lucky shot.
Lorna’s experiences as an artist have led her to some exhilarating and unique encounters, from capturing scenes in the urban jungle, painting random men who take her fancy, being commissioned to recreate The Last Supper for a church, to portraits of well-known figures, with Margaret Thatcher, Derek Jacobi and Rolf Harris to name a few.
But the art world can be difficult to crack. Studio prices are high, and spaces for exhibitions are also expensive and oversubscribed, and can take hours of multi-tasking to put together.
Lorna’s well due her big break, so I wanted to help by doing a little blog!
I first met Lorna when I went to her exhibition called Beautiful Boys in October 2007. She wanted to get a strong female’s perspective on the male form, challenging and matching the centuries-old notion of male painter’s gaze and female muse. The boys featured were either people she knew or random passers-by in the street, whom she ran upto and told them of her project! As well as paintings on display there were charcoal sketches, some of which she did live before our eyes. It was amazing to see how quickly yet accurately she could take the likeness of someone and transfer it to paper, and after (much too kindly!) sketching me it was eery to see ‘me’ in her drawing.
A LAST SUPPER
After irregular contact our paths crossed again a year or so later. Having contacted me to ask for my help in a portrait, I hadn’t heard back after replying, until a few months later in early 2009 when I tried again. Apparently she never received a reply, and was nearly finished, but desperately needed my help still! So we arranged a time when we were both free, and I was to meet her over the course of a few weekends in a studio in Hackney. I was very intrigued to say the least!
We met, and making our way to a dilapidated building, she introduced me to her makeshift studio; paints, fabrics and clutter all around, but it was a space she was able to paint with. It might be taken for granted, but I realised how hard it was for artists to have somewhere to store and create and not be charged extortionately for it, especially in London. And then she told me about the project.
‘A Last Supper’ – a modern interpretation of The Last Supper – was to be painted as an altarpiece for St. George’s Church, Nailsworth, Gloucester. A late parishoner, Alan Denman, who left a sum of money as a bequest, had a vision of this story to be on show at his church. Following her Beautiful Boys exhibition, Lorna thought it would be a great progression to get some of the guys from this together for it, on the condition that the commission was expenses only but she had complete artistic control. So she set about creating her masterpiece, with Jesus as a striking black figure, and the various disciples surrounding him all with their unique features. There was one left to paint, and I was humbled to help…particularly as embarrassingly all the other guys were models and I was anything but in comparison! I was to be St. Peter! And a gay Muslim at that! (OK, neither point actually matters, but I couldn’t help smile ;-) ).
So over 3 weekends, I helped her. Amazingly, she painted the piece completely from life; all the people who contributed she painted in person over the course of a few months. And all thirteen people could not come together simultaneously. So she set about painting each figure, one by one, adding slowly to her masterpiece. Remembering the positions of the ones before, along with the shadows cast, the looks exchanged, all at a particular time of day so the sunlight could be recreated.
I had never before bore witness to an artist in the throws of their creation; it was fascinating to see what goes into it all. Following a mainly academic route myself career-wise, I really respected her dedication to her work. Hearing about her previous works, it was evident she is not only talented but also highly-skilled with a variety of technical know-how. And this piece was a complete labour of love. From getting up early, to painting long hours, trying different styles, to revisiting different parts of the growing masterpiece. So holding statuesque still, half-robed, gesturing and maintaining a particular facial expression all at the same time was the least I could do to help her create St. Peter as painlessly as possible, even though it was agony at times!
It was great bonding experience too. We shared a lot. She told me about what she’s been upto, heartache, successes, ups and downs. She was going through a particularly difficult time when we met and I could see how such emotions can be reflected in or even influenced by painting. Although Lorna tells me she doesn’t strive to recreate what the camera sees, which flattens colours and simplifies form, and has only one focal point. She paints from life as she believes painting can capture what photos can’t, and her Last Supper pulstates with life and energy as though the figures were all about to start moving and turning towards you. And I think the end result was positive and cathartic for her.
And the experience became important for me to. It was the first time we had seen each other since we first met that October 2007 – and that day was forever etched in my mind, because I was on the way home to see my Mum and family. And that was the first time I saw just how ill my Mum had become. Mentally, she had been under too much pressure, and I saw the beginnings of her unravelling before us. It was heart-wrenching. Nothing could prepare us for her untimely death a couple of months later. But I remember on that day, I told her about where I had been…that this random lady had done a life-like drawing of me! Like all Mums, she was thrilled and was looking forward to seeing a copy that Lorna said she would give, but of course, she sadly passed-away.
So it was quite an experience to meet Lorna again, having not seen her since my Mum was alive, and sharing stories about my family, about changes in relationships that I had, and career since then too. On the last day, after I had helped all I could and Lorna had pretty much wrapped up that aspect of the painting, I was surprised to see she had brought me something. And it was the original charcoal sketch when we met that day, plus different sized copies. I’m no oil-painting I know! But for an artist to give her original work was really nice. And it was because it signified an important association with my Mum on that day that she gave it. It’s quite a bittersweet possession for me, and I thought it was really sweet of her.
SACRED OR PROFANE
At Trafalgar Square, Lorna also had another exhibition. ‘Sacred or Profane’ is a modern interpretation of Zurburan’s shadowy robed monks, recast as the modern-day ‘hoody’, including St. Francis of Assisi’s infamous kneeling image. From her website: ‘Reinterpreting great themes of art of the past for the post religious modern world, Wadsworth’s paintings address the aching spirituality still endemic to the modern world’.
Lorna’s currently been working on a whole new collection of paintings, and is trying to get an exhibition sorted, and as usual is still working hard, especially when getting an exhibition together can be such an ordeal.
So make sure you check out her works of art on sale in the link above and at the top. And if you like them, make sure you grab them, they’re going fast!
And after that, check out her website below. Lorna May Wadsworth – a great talent!
ALL PAINTING IMAGES COPYRIGHT OF LORNA MAY WADSWORTH.