Leighton’s Drapery, Leighton House, London. 2011-12

In 2011-12 I undertook a residency at Leighton House and Museum.  The house is absolutely beautiful, full of seductive Iznic tiles and fountains but I did struggle with Lord Leighton’s work itself.  This was until I discovered a stash of drawings of drapery in the archive.  It made me look again at his paintings and at the swirling fabrics, as if wind machines had been placed near his figures.  I decided to use crunched paper as it mirrored the random folds of the material.  In a long and laborious procedure I painted about 15 coats of paint on large sheets of paper to build a real depth of colour.  Then I poured shellac and scrunched the paper in a risky 10 minutes before it disintegrated.  The aim was to build a rich surface that would hold its own against the sumptuous materials of the house.  With the curator, Daniel Robbins, we placed the works discretely amongst Leighton’s painting, where visitors could build their own connections.  You will find more more about Leighton’s approach to drapery in Daniel’s essay in the catalogue below.