Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Life modelling in Kennington

He keeps pointing his thumb at me, making measurements with his pencil. He is standing in front of me, hardly two meters away. Each time he does it I feel a reflex pulling me back, away from his pointed thumb. I feel like he's aiming to shoot. I don't like to be reduced to a set of dimensions.

To question the logic of measurement, I know, would be to question western art from the Renaissance onwards. And much of Western intellectual heritage in general. Making quantified statements that can be verfied in a scientific inquiry. Detaching oneself from the world, to turn it into an object, in order to tell the truth about it. Is it an ethos I reject? I know that even if wanted to it would be impossible: it's too much a part of me. And after all, here I am the model. I can't really complain. It's my job to be objectified.

He is so young. 18 would be my guess. Tall and thin, shy and quiet, with angelic red hair and innocent blue eyes, he looks like a choir boy. Like Thomas Mann's Tadzio. But his thumb is stuck in my face, so awkward, so intrusive. I want to tell him to stop measuring and to start looking. I want to ask him to draw me, not make a drawing of me. I'm not sure I can explain the difference.

When it's time for a break, I go to look at his drawing. It's pretty bad. I look like an ageing robot.

The rest of the drawings are more sympathetic. It's mostly portaits. Of me. I look at them all. It's a strange feeling: huge faces that look like my own. I feel like a celebrity, or a dictator.

Two days, 12 hours in total, and just one pose: sitting upright on a stool. I've never done a pose so long. It's hard work. I try to shift my weight invisibly between my thighs, between my buttocks. Time hurries up and slows down. I write this piece in my head. I focus on two stains on the wall, and see in them a smiley, and then a panda bear, and then I focus out, and everything becomes blury. The discomfort is gone, I feel just the waves of my breathing.

No comments: