January News

It started off as a simple enough idea. Borrow the concept and the composition from Manet’s Olympia, put a different spin on it, and bring it into a modern environment. Months later…

The trouble started early. Manet’s light source was placed differently to what I’m used to, the contrast much lighter. Some re-imagining and re-working helped to resolve this. But then came the main figure. Manet’s Olympia is nude – bright skin dominates, grabs our attention and holds it. In putting a dark-suited businessman in her place, I changed everything. The eye wouldn’t settle on him, and none of the colours fitted any more. I re-worked and re-worked, changed the colours of everything and changed the lighting around. Nothing worked. In fact it got worse, like a stew that’s over-seasoned and stirred too much. Finally it was taken off the easel and turned to face the wall like a naughty child.

Months passed and other paintings came and went. You can’t leave the shame of an unfinished problem-child sitting in the studio forever. I put it back on the easel and took a fresh look at it. I started by simplifying the colours, reducing the palette. Then I needed some glue to pull it into a coherent painting. Manet’s glue was Olympia, but I needed to use something else, so I re-imagined a new background that could also bring it all together. There – finally finished. But you can’t have everything: while it’s now a completed painting, it’s also now a world away from Olympia. Note to self: Manet knew what he was doing – mess with the Masters at your peril.

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