Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Kate Middleton: Dusky Maiden

Paul Emsley / Portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge / 2012
It was Ben Street who described Paul Emsley's critically slaughtered portrait of Kate Middleton as having 'a soft focus, Seventies porn look', which I think is spot on. Something in the back of my head told me I had seen this painting before, but it took me a while to figure out where.

Bored at school one day we went exploring in the upper reaches of the science block. Up one of those staircases that seemingly leads to nowhere we stumbled across the sordid lair of the lab technicians, those unshaven Quasimodos that creep around the complex with grimy test tubes and Bunsen burners. It was a small penthouse grotto with a couple of battered sofas, improvised tea-making facilities and hardy pot plants struggling in the hostile atmosphere of stale sweat and putrefying John Player Specials. My eyes came to rest on the high priestess of this temple, presiding over an untidy mountain of used and abused copies of FHM and Maxim, a J.H. Lynch Tina, the Astarte Syriaca of soft-core.
J.H. Lynch / Tina / 1961
J.H. Lynch / Autumn Leaves / Before 1969
Similar to the effect of painting on black velvet, her sultry eroticism shines through the darkness and the (imagined) tobacco-stained fug on the surface of the canvas. For me, there is a horrible similarity between Emsley's Middleton and the crass ooh-la-la of Lynch's various dusky maidens. It gives me the creeps looking at it; I feel as if I am being forced against my will to be a sweaty-palmed voyeur - looking into K-Middy's eyes too long makes me want to go and wash.

Emsley, Emsley, what hast thou donst?
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