Thursday, 2 May 2013


Feisty Fraulein J and Calm Nick invited Suki to accompany them on a visit to Chester and I went along for the ride. April weather - lovely sunshine and sharp showers. The showers drove us into the shops and galleries. Suki needed to buy a button. Then we went for a latte and cake.


Suki and I stood outside a gallery being critical of a large oil painting given central space in the window. It was a female nude, seductive and coy, breasts hidden by an arm, her hips draped in silk. Ok for a footballer's wife's bedroom perhaps who could afford the £5000 price tag. It was by Mark Spain. I cannot find a copy online of the particular painting we were looking at but it was similar to Morning Light on this page.

It seemed kitsch, soft art porn. Why did it seem like that to me? What makes this so different from the many images prduced by artists of Suki? Suki does not generally pose to be seductive and coy.

Blatant, open, challenging perhaps, but rarely coy.

The art work of Suki somehow has more character - but trying to identify why was difficult.

The painting in front of us had been created with some skill. What was missing from it? What was at fault? The pose, the model, the artist or were we just being downright snobs?


  1. 'Blatant, open, challenging' - all of those words sound like a sexual aggressor. No I certainly am not seductive or coy in my poses. Our criticism of Mark Spain's paintings is of their coy come-on quality. But if I am this other thing, this 'challenging' thing, then I don't know whether I can take some sort of high moral ground as a model? I mean, modelling unclothed just IS sexual, isn't it? Always. In a way.

    Being 'blatant' ( - is that the same as explicit?) means - to me - that I am not playing games. I have no inhibition at all. I make shapes with my body to try to be interesting. With that priority, there is no place for keeping ones knees together or legs crossed or turning demurely away, as Mark's models do. Oh, and nor do I adorn myself with make-up or their ringlets. This is the truly naked me. No frills.

  2. Ech, ech, ech & he has the cheek to put that Titian as his mast head- I know it's a soft-porn staple but at least 'Tits' (as he was known to his friends) knew how to treat vermillion with respect
    Dave Thomas

  3. Thanks David. Titian did at least display breasts whereas Spain seems to keep them hidden. Perhaps to spare blushes when his paintings are hung over the fireplace.

    I wonder Suki if fewer paintings of you end up over the fireplace because you don't keep your legs together or turn demurely away?

  4. Alex wrote in a comment in a parallel discussion on Suki's blog:

    The ilk of paintings like those that you speak of on Bel’s blog, are not about the female nude per se. They are about sex. For men. The subject becomes an object, her curves are painted so that the viewer (supposed to be male) can “enjoy” their sexual aesthetic.

    The subject is object and is possessed by the viewer. She is not possessed by herself.

    I liked this and responded:

    I think Alex is spot on. It is an ideallised version of the female for the male gaze. Perhaps men don’t find a painting of a ‘real’ woman sexy – even if it is more explicit.

  5. I may have changed my mind - a woman's prerogative.

    Do read my new response here.

  6. Mark Spain's images contain no surprises, no sense of possibilities... not even sexual ones. But there is a danger that our responses are made up of worn out clich├ęs, too. So I think we try to get a bit beneath the surface. This is not about content, idealisation, one type rather than another... it is about treatment. Yes, the poses are languid... bodies, not active and alive but plumped up like cushions to make us more comfortable, or set out like ripe fruit. But that is not the real problem. The problem is the light.

    The light is painted in a lazy way... as it does nothing except ripple, undulate. Light is not like that. And it sets up bodies with flesh that does nothing except ooze sensuousness - or a kind of ersatz sensuousness - the monosodium glutomate of sensuality.

    Nobody in the 21st century can believe for an instant anything about those pictures (except some basics of form, shape, architecture). Some sad souls are happy enough to buy a fiction. They are the confectionary equivalent of a Catherine Cookson.

  7. Yes - light is so important, and the painter has a different kind of control from the photographer.

    There is nothing wrong with sensuousness or sensuality - but yes I love your phrase about the ersatz version, " the monosodium glutomate of sensuality".

    Thanks for contributing to the discussion.