Stuart George

Laying down the law: Natasha Law

Having recently moved in to her south London studio, the decorators’ brushes and paint pots lying around suggested that Natasha Law was doing a bit of DIY renovation. But these are in fact the tools of her trade, with which she creates her signature semi-clothed, cropped and fragmented nudes.

Law’s work requires a complex, time-consuming process. She usually starts with modelling sessions in which she photographs and draws her sitters. The resulting line drawings are projected onto aluminium sheets, and she then decides the colour scheme and how to crop the image. Having used board originally, nowadays she applies gloss paint to aluminium, like Gary Hume – “I always loved his work,” she says.

The last and most difficult part of the process starts when she applies the colours onto the aluminium panel. Multiple layers are necessary to produce the bold colours, and each layer requires long hours of drying, sanding and repainting. It doesn’t help that she “keeps having changes of mind about colour…”

Law’s choice of material, as well her subject, evokes the aesthetic of Pop Art. Her flat, bold block colours are reminiscent of Tom Purvis’ posters and Tom Wesselmann’s nudes. Her celebrity clients, connections in the fashion world, and bright artworks recall Andy Warhol. The Factory in Peckham, perhaps? “I wish!” Her drawings are also minimalist in style: “I like the idea of reducing shapes and colours. I think of them as a still-life.” Photography influences her work, and she cites Ryan McGinley, Terry Richardson and Juërgen Teller as favourites.

Jude and Natasha Law

Big sister

Born in 1970, Natasha is the older sister of the actor Jude Law. “I don’t fully appreciate how famous he is,” she admits. “It always seemed to help with the press coverage, though the work and shows went on regardless. But I realised that papers had the hook with the ‘Jude Law’s sister’ story in brackets. I can’t knock it, even if it has a risky side, too. We’re linked together and the press might turn against one or the other.”

She studied History at Warwick University, graduating in 1992, and then travelled in India, where she will be holding a show in November with Natasha Kissell, who is also on the books at Eleven Fine Art. She speaks highly of Eleven’s Charlie Phillips: “He’s been in charge of me for five or six years. He takes a backseat and knows how I work, and when to rush me or not. You get to know each other after a while!” Many of her previous New York shows were curated by Blair Clarke, who continues to take US-based commissions on behalf of Natasha.

Having done art at school, “It was shuttered for a bit, but I got back into it in India.” After her travels, Law studied graphic art at Camberwell College of Arts in South London before becoming involved with fashion illustration when she designed a catwalk show invitation for her then-sister-in-law Sadie Frost in 2002: “After graduating, you grab things, and a lot of things evolved without any hard and fast plan…I fell into set building.”

She is old enough (or rather, young enough) to have been part of the “Freeze” or “YBA” generation, but she came to art too late to be part of that zeitgeist. “I did the history degree first, which meant that I was never going to be at art college at the same time as the Britart crowd, but they were definitely that bit older…They seemed a different generation, really. I’m a pretty solitary person anyway – I don’t like groups or movements, so it was far more likely that I’d be painting in isolation… Painting is such an isolated job, isn’t it?”

Coral knickers on red (2008; image courtesy of Eleven Fine Art)

Lip gloss

Natasha has had a long collaboration with the FrostFrench label, designing everything from prints to show sets. (FrostFrench went bust at the end of July 2008). Lou Lou and Law is a fashion-design partnership with London designer Ann Louise Roswald, which Natasha says is “mooching along!” Roswald says of her partner, “I don’t know how she juggles everything – her three kids, her illustrations, working with me – but somehow she does and she’s a total breath of fresh air with it.”

Having designed book covers for chick lit novels, she says, “I seem to have cornered the market in break-up novels!” She has done cover designs for Penguin and Macmillan, among others: “There’s a security to it, in that you are often working to a set brief.” She calls this illustrative work “my side-income,” and would like “to narrow the divide between illustration and the boldness and the chunkiness of the paintings.”

“Gloss has fulfilled my needs and intentions,” she says. “It’s quite sculptural, with some relief qualities.” By 2010, though, apparently all household paints will be acrylic rather than gloss – “so I need to stock up or start exploring new ideas.”

Grey bikini on yellow (2008; image courtesy of Eleven Fine Art)

Profile

Natasha Law was born in 1970 and educated at Warwick University and Camberwell College of Arts. She has had sell-out exhibitions in London and New York, and her work appears regularly in The Sunday Times “Style” section. She is married to scriptwriter Finton Ryan, whose credits include the BBC dramas Party Animals and Hustle. A typical gloss on aluminium work by Law costs up to £6,000.

(Published in Artists & Illustrators April 2009 © Artists & Illustrators)

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