Living is easy with eyes closed – what next?

It’s been nearly two months since the exhibition at the Old Fire Station happened and after a few weeks catching up with normality (if there is such a thing) and a short trip to London to see friends and family and some art (Gormley and Freud at the RA and Kollwitz at the British Museum – all fantastic), I am now looking to take the work to other venues and to develop/add to it. If anyone has any suggestions of possible places, please let me know.

Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy

While I was otherwise engaged, Troy Slater of West Walls Artists and Evan Rhodri Davies of The Often Herd, among other things, were creating a video and soundtrack, which you can see at I had wanted some kind of record of the exhibition but this video has turned out to be much more than that. Huge thanks to Troy and Evan!

and here’s me admiring the master – Lucian Freud Self-portraits also at the RA

Looking at the Freud self-portraits hung in chronological order, it struck me that his style and medium aged like skin or the bark of a tree. The very early drawings and paintings sharply drawn and smooth, almost translucent glazes of paint; the later portraits, as we all know, made with coarser brushes and meatier paint, show the direction of every stroke of the hogshair. And then in the work from his last years, the curdled paint so piled up and lumpy, the surface becomes gnarled and warty, deformed, arthritic, only resolving into a vivid figure at a distance – the distance necessary for aging eyes?

Enough. Time to send off some enquiries – and get back to painting …

Only Connect – one for the nerds

There’s a quiz programme on the BBC which I like, called Only Connect, which used to allow viewers to submit puzzles to their website. For some reason, yesterday, I found myself constructing one of these puzzles. It turns out you can’t submit them to the Only Connect website anymore, so, in the spirit of waste-not-want-not, here it is.

Sound Erythematous Strait Mary
Violet Bay Florid Marina
Rosy Jenny Chilling Blushing
Sheila Pink Broad Veronica

The idea is that you sort the grid into four groups of four. In the words of Wikipedia: ‘Each team receives a wall of 16 clues and must figure out a perfect solution, consisting of four groups of four connected items. The puzzles are designed to suggest more connections than actually exist, and some clues appear to fit into more than one category.’ A word of warning, groups may involve an element of word play.

Let me know if you would like the answers 🙂

And here’s a re-use of a totally irrelevant drawing of one of my favourite Freud paintings – yes, I am trying to distract myself from politics…

pencil drawing from Freud’s Double Portrait

Lucian Freud and animals

Looking again through my books on Lucian Freud, I think perhaps he liked animals more than humans. They seem to be treated with more respect and gentleness in his paintings (and in person – see the images of Freud with a fox or a horse or a falcon).

pencil drawing from Freud's Double Portrait
pencil drawing from Freud’s Double Portrait

Reading about his life, his lack of concern for social norms, his absolute commitment to what mattered to him, it seems Freud was a feral creature himself. Like a wild thing, whose days revolve around those few imperatives, eat, endure, procreate, in an eternal present, Freud pursued his basic needs, food, women, and most of all, painting, every day, without much thought of consequences or the future, it seems. So one wonders whether he saw these dogs and horses as kindred spirits, more comprehensible than the people he studied so assiduously.

Or perhaps it is not the painter’s own attitude that makes the difference. Perhaps he just paints what he sees, and what looks like a special respect for his animal subjects is only a recognition of their absolute self-containment, their lack of concern for his penetrating eye. There they sleep or stand, utterly indifferent to his observation and his easel.*

His human models, on the other hand, however familiar they become, surely cannot help but be aware of their situation, of their relationship to the artist, and be self-conscious in the simplest sense, knowing that they are seen, and will be seen by others, as part of his great body of work, his oeuvre.

Perhaps then, the difference that Freud’s paintings show us is not in his view of his subjects, but in theirs and ours. If there is any sense of an improper invasion, that is only possible because we humans have a special sensitivity to the gaze and judgement of others. The paintings affect us, the viewer, because we can empathise at once with the model and the painter, and feel that we are being seen and seeing intimately, maybe too intimately for comfort.

Freud painted himself too, of course, and in his unflinching self-portraits, I think we can see him as one of his own animals – unconcerned with questions of intimacy, getting on with what he does, paradoxically unself-conscious while concentrating all his attention on this object which is himself.



*Of course I cannot know this, but it seems to me that at least the dogs I know have no sense of embarrassment or privacy (which is why it is always faintly absurd when their people try to stop them from ‘being rude’ in their greetings and nosing inspections of each other).

‘If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.’ (Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations II, p. 223)


Copyright © 2014 Fliss Watts


Last year, members of our art group were asked to contribute to an exhibition which was to provide a backdrop and conversation pieces for a film about people’s reactions to art. I used this as an excuse to spend some time looking hard at paintings by Lucian Freud.

I’m not sure what the responses were to the exhibition as I have not seen the resulting film, but I thought I’d recreate my small section of it here, as the drawings I made will otherwise languish in my plan chest, now that the exhibition is long past.


Six words:

Originality – self-expression – inspiration – homage – imitation – plagiarism

What’s the difference? Does it matter?


Four drawings:

Two are my charcoal copies of Lucian Freud paintings,

one is a copy of my own painting (original painted from life)

and one is drawn from life.

Which is which? Does it matter?



Copyright © 2014 Fliss Watts