Two stimulating but disturbing art exhibitions in London provided more food for thought than is manageable in one head! Mine at least. So I start with just one.
Lucien Freud paints nudes as no one has ever painted nudes before – no eroticism, no beauty, no aesthetics but a scrutiny of the inner person. I use that word not through political correctness but because the painter ignores gender as an irrelevance, despite painting genitals in graphic detail. Sex preoccupies the inner world, but curiously appears rarely in LF’s depiction of the relational world.
No eyes look at the observer – only inward. So too with couples. A lover’s eyes do not rest on their lover – they remain focused on inner images.
So these nudes confront us with our fundamental solitary state in all its rare, exquisite beauty. We are exactly who we are, changing with each fleeting thought, changing through the fleeting or drawn-out moment, and we are alone.
Disturbing? This stark depiction of the human condition provides – bizarrely – encouragement. We face our world, our relations, and our minds alone and unknown. But each painting offers the insight that – despite our stark, relentless solitude – we can and do surround ourselves with pleasures and relationships that soothe, renew and bring joy.
The muscularity is striking of each figure, even when the paunch, the wrinkles or the sagging skin might suggest weakness. The musculature reflects unique inner strengths confirming that pleasures can be found, relationships are to be explored and our nature must be lived.