Something about the life model – a triptych
These three pieces are not about the artist, they are about my emergency life model – she would come over at a drop of hat to let me do things like mold metal mesh around her legs or wrap her entire body in cling film. However, I realised that the work I was doing was more and more becoming about her, rather than being of her. In the end, it is her life that I have found myself responding to.
The pieces in this triptych were made over a few years. First, I completed the acrylic painting in 2017 and the last two pieces just before Christmas 2019 – a cyanotype art object and a film loop. They are each of the same life model, during different, very difficult stages of her life. She is my friend of 17 years. She has been an ongoing dependable and good influence in my life, even through all that she has endured these last two years – heartbreak, displacement, cancer, menopause, divorce, death and finally facing her new life alone.
The Painting – Title: Skinny Dipping II
To begin with, I just wanted to paint a nude in a garden setting. I wanted to get something formal out of my system before embarking on more abstract pieces. With her back to us, by the side of her pool, in her garden, she gazes out over her beautiful view. This is her old life that, at the time, she didn’t know she would soon be saying goodbye. This is one of two paintings that available on my webshop, Skinny Dipping I and Skinny Dipping II.
The Cyanotype – Title: Holding it Together
I photographed her the day before she went into hospital to have a tumour removed. We were just doing a before and after photoshoot but the expression on her face in this photo haunted me – her hope and resilience. I helped to support her through two major surgeries and after each, I asked the nurse to save all the metal sutures for me in a little tub. I had a vision for this piece – printed on rough beige silk, stretched in a circle like a drum, with her tummy sewn up. I felt like I needed to express what I had witnessed in her life and all the pieces came together easily. I found the rusty iron rim while out walking. As I was working on this piece, I still did not know whether the end result would be too dark to exhibit. In the exhibition, people said they were drawn to it from across the room. She stares out resolutely at us from what seems like a native artifact. Holding it Together can be purchased on my webshop.
The Film – Title: New Life
You never really know what’s going on in people’s lives. I hope this triptych at least communicates some of the emotion, the passing of time and a story of hope, expressed through different artistic mediums. Maybe you can tell it’s the same model in each piece, maybe you can’t – I don’t think it matters. Life goes on, even when sometimes it feels impossible.
Being An Artists’ Model
If an artist ever asks you to pose for them, say “Yes”. Even if you don’t like the art at the time, it’s going to mark a point in your life that you can look back on. The experience will be more memorable than a photo. (Obviously, you need to feel comfortable about working with that artist, the intention and the pose.)
I’m on most social media platforms as Emma Plunkett Art. I also write an art newsletter – you get a free downloadable watercolour flamenco dancer when you subscribe!