Contemporary portraits

Jules Bastien-Lepage
Emile Friant
french painters Thomas Ehretsmann loves
Realist or ruralist ones. Then he goes on and does this subtle lit drawing of his pregnant wife. You can only tell her face is full of something. And the shades of sky resting on her head, on the contour of her face. The warmth of shadow embrace. A cosiness in melancholy.


The first one – Jules – the fleeting beauty of peasant life. I’m struck by how mesmerised we are about a curve of the neck, a “rural love” a wake in the fields. And how they get overwhelmed/suffocated by function as life strides on.

The second – Émile Friant – a detailed account of beauty in life and death. The esthetic of flirt. More suspense in the drama of the moment, or the inner presence. I’m surprised to recognise the lady in the winter. An image stuck to my emotional retina somewhere without being too obvious. I may have seem it before, or the silhouette of one of my lovers (..?). A dream where one could tell the underskin of thought and uncertainty in someone else just by looking, or by being there, walking by.

I wake up a week later from a book of dreams. Layer after layer of questioning a pattern of love choices. Connection with a suggestion from the analyst too. But she was just fumbling in the dark. Still, my mind has somehow weaved that idea into other instances… asking why. What’s Lala got to do with anything. Or her bf. Is there something there?, was there?.. layers of yes and no and colours of it. A couple of girls where we just flirted with the idea. How did that go and why. How ingrained or attracted we were. Where did we disconnect. Did we. Where did I.. Then my brother. Then my mother. My grandma’s house. Things falling around. Furniture, tables. Two beds. One where S and I used to sleep in when we were kids. And another one where TnD supposedly do now, as mirrors of our past. Cut and pasted into the present. Both in grandma’s house. Both tended by my mum. Or used to… my questioning of how foreboding some dreams really are.. are they? or how “instantaneous”. We stay with the idea that once something goes that deep into our dreams, or reaches something so troublesome that it might mean something, might stay with us ingrained in the duration of our bodies, our lives. When it’s actually a fleeting wonder of the soul, or subconscious. Like my body needing bread when deprived of. It’s bread I dream of, not Jesus torn to edible pieces. Isn’t it?!

I stayed on a picture of me and him last night. Going into the details of it. Of our expressions. Maybe that’s where some of the dream came from.

On with the show…

Carol Ann Duffy – the poem Valentine
“It’s fierce kiss will stay on your lips”
These words stay with me. The imprint on the skin deeper than the one on the painting.
drops of her verses scattered and painted over on the canvas of another painter, by another woman. A bodily conversation of two poetesses.

I look it up days later. Utterly simple and yet cutting in. The ominous knife ahh again…

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

by Carol Ann Duffy


I usually spend hours in an exhibition like this. Had to rush this time. 40′ or so only.

The face of a surly boy – zurbagiu da – restung a moment. Restless only in mind. Gaze. Painted on a small steel plate. Nice idea. Irridescent. Dragos like.


Then a Tonitza-like face. I check and yes!, it’s a romanian painter. Cute, but could’ve been a  it more original. Her son. I stay and wonder for minutes what’s with the two red drops. A painterly slip. I like it.


A note on the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition at National portrait Gallery.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s