Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Kiss And Tell
I flew to Sydney immediately after Christmas to meet a young professional couple who have commissioned me to paint their portrait. It is to be one of the first of a handful I've agreed to undertake as something of an homage to the portraits Andy Warhol created from the 1960s until his death. His portraits weren't really paintings but photographs silk-screened then colored with paint. I want to replicate their square, 106cms by 106cms dimensions and predominantly head-and-shoulders compositions but hand-draw and paint from (but not onto) photographic studies using mixed media, including oils.I spoke with the couple by 'phone a few days before the shoot. They – and I – weren't interested in a 'traditional' portrait. I suggested that I photograph them as they kiss passionately. It would require privacy. As it turned out, they were staying at my favourite Sydney hotel. I'd once photographed myself there having sex with a waif-like Korean girl for my 2008 photographic exhibition, PORNO. I began photographing the couple almost as soon as I entered their room – small talk seemed inappropriate and hesitation awkward. At first, I arranged them on a large chair. It was uncomfortable so I asked them to sit on the bed. It was the proverbial elephant in the room but they were sweet, brave and trusting. They kissed hard, unself-consciously, without pause, almost without breath. I moved around them, photographing from different angles. By the time I was done, a pink rash had formed around her mouth and his neck was stiff. But they were smiling and happy. I sat with them for a while, talking about the commission and its logistics. Then I left. I didn't look at the photographs until today. I wanted some distance from the experience itself. It will be another few weeks before I select the image I'll use and begin the real work.