The act of putting on or taking off our clothes could not be more ordinary. We do it at least twice a day, every day – probably fifty thousand times over a lifetime. And yet to catch sight of someone else engaged in the same undertaking can be an extraordinarily intimate thing. In Natasha Law’s paintings, now being exhibited at Eleven, women are either fully absorbed in the task at hand, or lost in their own private reverie. They are at their most vulnerable – alone, half-nude, aloof, unprepared for prying eyes – though to redress the balance their faces are almost always turned away, hidden by falling hair or an astutely placed elbow, even cut out of the frame altogether.
Anatomical accuracy is less important than expressing an emotion or sensuality. Each figure is conveyed only in silhouette, her shape enhanced by the scantest of details – a splinter of shoulder blade, for instance, or the crinkle of skin behind a knee, or a scrunched up sole, neatly crowned by a curve of toes. Flesh and blood, sure enough, but elegant and uncomposed; form so delicately done that it is almost invisible.
Though partially exposed, something of these women’s essence remains a mystery – tantalisingly so. Partly that’s because they are half-dressed (artists discovered long ago that a partly clothed body – en déshabillé – is much more alluring than one with no clothing at all). In this sense, Law’s images connect with, without looking directly at, paintings made at the turn of the 19th century by artists such as Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard, who, like Law, often painted their subjects looking away from the viewer, suppressing background detail so as to focus the viewer's gaze.
Text by Laucy Davies. Until 28th September 2019, Eleven, 17 Gothic Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW2 5EH