Doug Binder, painter in residence at Dean Clough, Halifax

This month we showcase the work of Doug Binder, painter in residence at Dean Clough, Halifax

I’ve always loved J.B. Priestley’s essays, in particular on the role of the artist, he comments on the Avant-Garde and its need to show off, adding that his own preference was for modesty and delicacy with smallness of scale.

Nowadays, the conceptual art wing of the Avant-Garde increasingly looks like a side show of the entertainment industry. The shift in taste has resulted in a lack of faith in some traditional courses by the art colleges and universities, causing all but a few to abandon them. The life class has almost disappeared, leaving the initiative to a few private concerns that are determined to take up the banner.

My role as Dean Clough’s painter in residence enables me to hold a weekly session in the life room. My firm belief is that the life class still remains a vital discipline for many, for some it becomes addictive, even a ritual, where prolonged observation through training the eye, becomes paramount.

It is a tiring practice, sometimes exhausting if held over a protracted period where concentration is at a premium and strict silence is observed. The models themselves fascinate me. From the time when they held little esteem, occupying what was once considered a belittling role, they now enjoy a healthy respect from the artists.

Sue, an athletic yoga expert, published poet and novelist, her novel is about life as an artist’s model. Nikita enjoys bringing her world of burlesque into class, wearing only laddered stockings. Erica, who was my pub manager, tours the nightclubs of Manchester at weekends; on Monday she will slowly sink to the floor during her pose. Katrina could yawn for England – her mouth seems to embrace the room. Virginia is like a beach ball on sticks with absolutely no contours to draw – she provides quite a challenge. Siobhan has all the contours, being skin and bone. Their shapes and lives in the life room is all I need for making paintings.

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