Apr 142016



I’ve photoshopped more of Jacques-from-Brussels’ shots from that first group session. Though Jacques is a keen life-long photo-journalist with excellent kit, we just didn’t have a rapport. Now that I have cropped this one to emphasise my hideous belly and taken out some colour, intentionally “making an ugly thing happen” (to quote Helmut Newton, preceding his emphatic declaration that he “would never do that to a woman”), I do like this pic. I want Schiele-esque grotesqueness, not Jacques’ prettiness.

New year, new effort to get to know Bel. Coz we’ve lived together for more than three months and it’s getting stupid.
    ‘Why I really came here?’ Bel pauses from doing the dishes. ‘Okay. I think I came here because if I stay well away from my daughter, no-one can tell me I’m the root cause of her schizophrenia.’
    ‘Flipping heck Bel’ – I, too, pause from drying up – ‘who’s been telling you that?’
    ‘It’s an established theory. They trot it out.’
    ‘Or they don’t speak it, you can just feel it in the way they deal with you. As the mother.’
    ‘Who? The doctors? Sure you’re not being paranoid? Oh god’ – I wince – ‘’scuse that accidental… Sorry…’

My rapid escape to the Delightful Peony is only for an hour. But by my return, Bel seems deeply under a cloud.
    She hands me a substantial tome, Nude: Theory. ‘Your fan just stopped by.’
    ‘What – Aussie Cyril?’ (Has Bel’s distress been caused by the unexpected visitor? Or something else?) ‘Why didn’t he wait?’
    ‘He wouldn’t let me text you. Just wanted to drop it off.’ She is back at her desk, fumbling agitatedly for a cigarette.
    ‘Are you okay?’
    Bel turns to me – ‘How can any of us be “okay”?’ She smacks at a print-out of an article. ‘Seen this? Climate change is threatening global food supply. Demand for food is fast outstripping supply. Vast tracts of Africa and China are turning into dustbowls on a scale that dwarfs the one that devastated the US in the 1930s…’

I escape to the bedroom, close the door, sit at my makeshift desk. Bel’s world scares me beyond words. I need to bury my head in Art, creativity, Adobe Photoshop… Anything to distract myself from the imminent apocalypse.

Dear Cyril,
sorry to have missed you dropping by the flat, thanks for this fab book! Are you up for doing a proper studio shoot? Maybe at 50 Moganshan?? I want to try more Schiele poses. I have props. How about Monday or Tuesday? Suki x

My dear Suki!
I arrived here at the Delightful Peony a few moments ago, but have obviously just missed you. If you would permit me to buy you a rather disgusting sweetened latte I would love to converse with you face to face? Am sitting here reading about that old goat Picasso. Actually it’s a book primarily about Lee Miller’s relationship with Roland Penrose, but there’s an interesting quote by New York artist Lee Krasner (Jackson Pollock‘s wife), that the Parisian Surrealists “treated their women like French poodles”. You must know that Picasso famously said, women “make good models and poor artists”? Hope to see you shortly! Cyril xx

re Picasso: so what. Don’t forget that Lee Miller – prototypically a liberated, autonomous woman – managed to be friends with Picasso on equal terms for thirty-six years! He painted six portraits of her and she took over a thousand photos of him. There are plenty of old goats coming out with sexist nonsense all over the place. They can at the same time be charming and fun and therefore forgivable. S
PS Soz, can’t come to café, Bel unwell.

Dearest Suki,
defend Picasso if you will. This book I’m reading says that women in his circle were “constrained to the traditional art-historic role of a passive object to be admired, mythologised, dressed and undressed as the perfect accessory to the male artists’ statement of who they were and how they interpreted their world”. Picasso’s late works depict an ever-lovely young model juxtaposed with himself looking increasingly decrepit and grotesque. These images make us “voyeurs of voyeurism”, witnessing the artist’s desire to possess. Thus we, too, enjoy the fantasy of possession of the “object”: the woman.
    What is the matter with Bel? Cx

Why is Cyril copying out all this? Does he think the way to my heart is to be feminist and right-on?
    Is that truly, as Bel would have it, his aim? My heart?

Dear Cyril,
Picasso’s portrayal of an imbalance of power in favour of the male is a reflection of the world he was living in, not his personal misogyny. Somewhere I have read – and I agree – that Picasso’s nudes continue, to the end of his life, to represent the epitome of beauty, fertility, and nature itself. Sexist pig maybe, but he LOVED WOMEN.
    All relationships are in reality power-games. I think you know what I mean. True freedom is when we can choose our roles, and play them out – which we in liberal societies have the privilege to do (unlike in some corners of this world).
PS Bel is depressed. I’d feel bad leaving her alone, soz.

That’s my excuse, anyway.



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  21 Responses to “Page 20”

  1. I think I live in more in Bel’s world than yours. But pessimism is rewarding because life is rarely as awful as we pessimists expect and when it is, we are at least somewhat prepared.

    • I don’t want to live in a mental state of being perpetually prepared for disaster, Noa. An underlying anxiety every minute of every day…

      Show me an escape. Life in a remote Swedish forest. Or on an island or in a lighthouse. Drinking champagne.

      I don’t think this Shanghai jaunt is proving to be an escape – either for me or for Bel.

  2. The photo of you is not flattering, but not grotesque. It’s an interesting image that you inspired the artist to create. And isn’t that the point?

  3. I cropped it myself, Bob and Dave. I turned it from a mundane image into an interesting one. A grotesque one. I’m the artist.
    Interesting that you do call the picture’s creator an ‘artist’ not a photographer.

  4. I draw and paint as you know, Suki, and I am also into photography! So am I an artist when drawing but then not when I pick up a camera? Are both not simply a vehicle for us to create images and interpret our ideas?

    • Well, cameras find their way into the hands of both artists and non-artists, Roger, the way paintbrushes are used by artists and home decorators. It’s about whether the motive is to produce Art, isn’t it? In the case of cameras, most products of that tool were never intended as Art.

      But in the case of Jacques-from-Brussels, I don’t think his image was Art (in fact he didn’t define himself as an artist) – until I transformed it. Jacques the Photographer, Suki the Artist.

  5. In my limited experience women make better artists than men – and I, for one, adore the grotesque!

    • Have I misunderstood? This is not grotesque.

      • grotesque ɡrə(ʊ)ˈtɛsk
        comically or repulsively ugly or distorted

        Due to my radical crop and rotation of the original photo, my belly looks especially repulsive.

        • Dear Jim, we in the office don’t find this image grotesque or repulsive either.

          We have had our disagreements with Suki over the suitability of these self-modified images – in the name of Art – for use as illustrations in this autobiography. We are of the view that her motives are more to do with her body-image / self-hate issues, for example listen to her poem about her belly here.

          However we are at the end of the day her humble servants.

    • Yey! Jenny Saville etc. Let’s hear it for women being grotesque not prettified.

      • Thank you for explaining, Admin.

        Suki you are beautiful! You have such a wonderful voice. Why do so many women judge themselves and each other on the diameter of their belly? A fertility jealousy perhaps? or dictated by the media?

  6. Guys.
    I am not judging myself, I am not measuring myself against other women, I am not self-hating. I am subverting the dominant paradigm – that photographs of women are to show off their beauty.

    Conventionally speaking, a woman seeing a “bad” photo of herself (i.e. one that does not show her at her self-defined ‘best’) will HATE that photo.

    I love the above photo of myself. I created it myself. First, I carefully wrinkled up my belly and hung my breast over it, then I had it photographed, then I cropped the image down to focus on these body-parts, rotated it to make the hanging flesh look more strange, etc… et voila.

    Me and Jenny Saville, we are liberated.

  7. If that’s considered grotesque, I, and maybe others, can add that label to our bodies.

    • Sophie, you (plus a couple of days of reflection) have made me change my mind. I agree that grotesque isn’t the word.

      I just mean ‘real’, don’t I.

  8. ‘My rapid escape to the Delightful Peony is only for an hour.’

    ‘Suki: “don’t listen to second-hand talk of schizophrenia guilt”.’