Rankin v Freud


I make no apologies for another review in a short space of time as this is part of the process of understanding what I want to achieve out of my work.

This review is of the work of the photographer Rankin and the artist Lucian Freud. A quick glance of these two books and there is no question they are at the opposite poles of the creative spectrum.

Rankin has a big part of his background in the fashion world, with many of the sitters of his pictures in his book Visually Hungry either professional models or people who are in the limelight.

While Freud’s paintings in the National Portrait Gallery catalogue of his exhibition in 2012, are of ordinary people. Some of whom are now household names from being one of his sitters.

Looking at some of the images in Rankin’s book, I did wonder if they had post production work on a computer applied to them. There is one piece which had notes on one side of the double page spread marking the “imperfections” of the portraits and on the other side the images post production, which was fairly obvious that it had. But it did cross my mind for some of the others.

The One Dress series of images by Rankin is a clever idea with all his different sitters wearing the same dress. However the dress was worn by people who were very comfortable in clothing they were asked to put on. The oldest model still had the looks of a professional and for all I know may well have been.

Freud’s work on the other hand is at a first look far from the conventional understanding of beauty and glamour. There is something raw about his paintings and I think the artist has over-accentuated every nook and cranny of his sitter’s body. In the annex to the book there is a photograph of Sue Tilley who is the sitter in Benefits Supervisor Sleeping and the difference between the picture and the painting is quite stark. But the more you look at Freud’s work the more you appreciate the light that is falling on his subject.

What both sets of books have in common is that it takes real skill to make a portrait. It is easy to take a snapshot of someone’s face but to add that extra depth, to make you pause and think what is going on with this person’s life is what put Rankin and Freud at the top of their respected fields.

These two books are inspiring but would I want to follow either of these creative paths? They are at the extremes of idealism and realism and I do wonder if there is a middle path.