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Naked truth

Posted in Art Papers by Adele Todd on September 6, 2007

When I was in my twenties, I was interested in painting on cloth. I had gotten involved with fashion and it was my way of bridging the gap between it and Art. I enjoyed painting people and I decided to do a painting of a friend. I still remember the process. I bought a length of Indian fabric called dhoti. Dhoti is usually about as long as a sari length, which is about six feet. I wanted to make him comfortable, so he lay down on the end of my bed.

We decided that he was going to do a sort of Michelangelo’s David pose, or something Sistine Chapel like. No protroding rude bits. Not that that was a concern, we just wanted to do something different.

At first I thought that I should attempt a quick sketch to aquaint him in the space of the fabric. Where to put his head, how long to make his body, I even began to place the eyes, but very quickly I realised that this was a piece where the paintbrush and the paint technique would have to speak for itself, so I quickly abandoned the pencil. It was getting in the way of the work. I was using colour fast water based fabric paint and an iron. So as I painted, I had to fix the media into the fabric. It felt like modern fresco technique.

It was important that this was someone that I knew so well that I understood where the shadows fell and how far or near to swipe the paint as I went along. Ever so often I had to come back and use a brush that I had fashioned with two to three hairs of sable to give fine details. But my goal was to get it just right, the form and the colouring. When I got to his feet, he was proudest of that, as I was able to really capture the tendons and the rhythm of his toes. It was very satisfying and I have never repeated it.

My friend would die tragically a few months later, and my painting is the only likeness of him ever done. Recently I met a friend of his, who I had worked with in the past, not knowing that I shared him as a connection. I sent her some images of him. I had never taken any for myself. But here I was happy to send her my memory of our dear friend.

Death is final and he has been gone a long time, but if there is proof that art has purpose and meaning, it has to do with a young girl, an iron and a desire to capture a friend on the end of her bed, not knowing what would be in store for us. That he would be the memory and I would be the rmemberer.

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