Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe

The location for this commission was a antique panelled dining room in a property in North London where the client commissioned a panel to cover a square two metres of wall space. The brief stipulated the dimensions of the piece and the material was to tone in with the existing fireplace and the honey colour of the wood.

My work concerns human relationships; physical, mental and spiritual.

Taking as my inspiration for this panel the initial concept of the dining room as a place to eat, I used a transcription of Manet’s painting ‘Dejeuner Sur l’Herbe’ (1863) and explored relationship within the painting using the  man/women relationship, clothed/unclothed and voyeur/viewer as the start of my initial enquiry.

Edvard Manets work confronted the viewer with relationships. Often illicit and dangerous and reliant, to a certain extent, on the context of the 19th Century and a social understanding of the period to fully understand how this was perceived as shocking. Having said that it is probably clear to most that the two clothed men accompanied by naked, or near naked ‘mortal’ female is probably antagonistic. Gone is any illusion of hiding the sexuality of women behind a veneer of antiquity amongst the ancient mythological narratives. These are nude women painted as prostitutes with their clients.

I wanted to remove from the painting the obvious 19th century sexual tension within the figurative composition and focus solely on the gestural directioning within the composition of a four figure ensemble. By de-contextualing and removing the main female subjects and empowering the main female figure in an all female composition, I wanted to create an harmony of shape and line.

I particularly enjoy Ingre’s ‘Grande Odalisque’ (181) and his painting of the ‘Turkish Bath’ (1862) and wanted to combine elements of both of these paintings into the layered image of four female figures in one piece. Taking both of these paintings, I altered the composition to all female figures so as to produce a cohesive and contrasting relationship and to echo the chaos of relationship and composition to that of the original paintings.

The idea of the female forms and the watery landscape; wrapping the bodies as clothing/ bindings, the drapery as intertwined and interlinking the figures, blending the forms as one mass and volume. Hair, drapery, water, the gaze as an interrelationship. The voyeur and viewer are still set up to be questioned and the composition unites the figures in a singular whole.

The Process of making the work:

1. The Clay is supported during construction by a wire frame over a polystyrene base which holds the clay onto the board and gives depth to the final panel.

2. The rubber is applied onto a finished clay surface. The rubber is placed onto the surface of the clay to start to form the eventual mould for the piece. Over this a rigid jacket of fibreglass will be made to hold the rubber tightly. From this the final cast can be made and eventually turned out.

3. The fibreglass jacket combines resin and fibreglass to cover the rubber giving a rigid mould from which the cast will be made.

4. The inside of the mould into which the Portland Jesmonite cast is poured.

5. The Panel is carefully transported by the Fine Art handlers who will fit the work on site.

6. The final Portland Jesmonite cast in location held by bespoke steel museum brackets.