Exhbition at National Portrait Gallery - March 2009
The pictures are open to the viewer's gaze and all are impenetrable - I recalled the girls who regard the viewer in the paintings by Vermeer, with their clean, cool interiors.
I thought of the painting by Degas of the weary washerwomen, when I looked at R's painting entitled Brigid Polk. The top of her head is cut off, as are her legs.
I wonder who would want a portrait of themselves done with malformed hands, sightless eyes and yet most of the earlier black and white paintings are called 'portraits'.
No. 19 is a painting in grey of a pretty woman, and I wondered how are we to regard this image and yet remind ourselves that 'what you make represents nothing but 'itself' - a quote from the notice in this room.
The last room of this exhibition has paintings of his current wife Sabine Moritz. There are pictures of wife and small baby, and among others, a large young nude girl. Most paintings under glass. The quote on wall from R mentions 'blurring'- 'to make all the parts a closer fit'. The blurring is noticeable and the scratch marks,but still these pictures are very pretty, pastel colours, pinks, blues, greens. Paint very flat and thinned. The paintings of the baby are also scraped, perhaps to reduce the sensuality of the subject.
I wondered why he changed from the very impersonal of the earlier works to these very personal ones, was it boredom?
The earlier paintings I noted seemed totally lacking in emotional engagement - bleak. How do the gallery curators make up the blurbs on the walls - does the artist keep a written note of what he says to other artists and then produce it for them?