More Context, More Drama: Evolutions in Painting the Female Nude

Seated Nude Against Red with Terrestrial Globe oil painting by Michael Alford

by Michael Alford

The artist’s notes on the paintings in his new exhibition, Form and Colour: Female Nudes in Context, on show from 1-15 May 2023 at Panter and Hall’s Pall Mall Gallery, 11-12 Pall Mall, St. James’s, London

This new group of figure paintings marks an evolution in my approach to the nude. I’ve played around with lighting the models in new ways to create more drama. I’ve also made more of other objects in addition to the figures. Often in the past I’ve used fabric in my figure paintings. I wanted to take the idea further, to make the paintings broader than just being about the figure alone.

Objects and props add visual interest. Including them allows me to introduce whole areas of fresh colour and varied texture. They bring a sense of scale to the figures and help define them in space. They create theatrical environments that hint at narratives, which aren’t present but could be implied. You can read stories into the paintings, or not.

The models’ surroundings draw attention to the fact that the paintings are constructed in a studio. They are artefacts, and that’s deliberate. I’m attracted to the combination of naturalness and artificiality at play in them. It produces a certain tension in the paintings and is one of the dynamics that’s most interesting for me to paint.

It’s important to say that I worked with several models to create these paintings. For me, good models bring something essential to the process. They’ve got ideas of their own, often very good ones, and I frequently leave it up to them to find the most natural poses. I find I get much better results by letting the model decide how to move, or sit or lie down, than if I try to direct them. It’s a truly collaborative process.

Form and Colour: Paintings

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