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Zagi, 1981-1982

Euan Uglow

Oil paint on canvas | 150 x 107 cm | Tate: Purchased 1982
© Tate, London 2017 © Estate Euan Uglow/Marlborough Fine Art, London


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Throughout his career, Euan Uglow directed much of his attention towards painting still-lives, heads and nudes. He used a precise system of observation and measurement to transpose what he saw onto the surface of the canvas. In this way, he eliminated any emotional content in favour of “visual reality”. On this figure, we can still see the marks of the measurements he made in order to transfer it from real life to the painting: Uglow decided not to camouflage these marks so that they would become part of the picture.


To get some idea of the artist’s systematic method, we have only to recall that the model posed for a year, six days a week and up to five hours a day. In the words of Elena Crippa: 


"His pictures were often exercises in solving problems that he set himself, in order to achieve an exact and evocative representation of the act of testifying that reality is something with a merit of its own. In this painting, the controlled quality of his work serves as a counterpoint to the warm, bright colour of the paint, the intimate force of the gaze, and the imperfect quality of some of the elements painted, so that a quest for perfection and stability coexists comfortably alongside the warmth and imperfection of life."