Francis Bacon painted the body electric. The works are a gorgeous study in figure (charged) ground (not) relations.... I have discussed Bacon's work before (April 9, July 2, July 7, all 2011, here). I love his work. But I do believe that there is room for a dialogue of sorts, an annotation, if you will. Bodies do not always look as if they are undergoing great emotional stress. Sometimes, it is the context that has changed utterly.
We change our whereabouts, our contexts, our landscapes, all the time. Sometimes the place we find ourselves is familiar, or it may be the same place but without people we knew, or it may be the same place, but the stand of trees has been felled. Or, we may be somewhere completely new to us -- "I have been someplace I never would go to," sings Joan Armatrading, in "Everybody Gotta Know This Feeling." So the air is different --- not always us. We carry our "person" with us. But the air? Not the same.
So I have been painting these odalisques -- my definition of the word is pretty loose, as I include Titian's "Venus" and then Picasso's Demoiselles and Lucian Freud's Leigh Bowery work among them. Sometimes, as with Delacroix, or Matisse, the models are from North Africa. But in the case of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, the models are Parisian, or situated in Rome (when he won the Prix), and for Freud, the model is a Londoner. All these nudes that I work from are painted, very decidedly, indoors. I pull each form out of its "frame" (the harem, Freud's city studio with skylight, Picasso's triangular blue -- but very much an indoor -- "sky"). I supply the body with a new place, out-of-doors, "someplace ... [s/he] never would go to." I want to see what the body looks like in an imagined new world. The body is on the canvas, pretty much in the form of the original painting, so both here, and ... there, in a clearing, or in a working port with container ships arriving, or.... anywhere but in a Paris or London salon. Here is my latest, based on Titian's "Venus of Urbino":