ART / In the Studio: The body in question: Simon English

The door to Simon English's studio is rarely open. Although he shares Acme's huge Stratford studio space with 80 other artists, for English, the painter's life is one of self-imposed isolation. The walls of his work space echo the parameters of claustrophobic paintings in which he explores the physical expression of human emotion.

'Body language is extremely important to me,' says English and the bodies which speak from his paintings are specifically nude and male. Their straining muscular torsos range across canvases, glazed to a mirror- like smoothness which lifts them relentlessly to the viewer's gaze. Seen by many as 'visions of hell', these paintings are more readily understood by the gay community as studies of their own club culture.

'The paintings are driven by the way men see men. There's a feeling of voyeurism and a lot of 'scanning' and tactical movement.' On his studio floor, English marks out the ritual movements of this demi-monde using lines of tape, and places himself and his models at spots along the curve of a circle or figure of eight.

The resulting studies, pinned to the wall, resemble Eadweard Muybridge's 1880s chronophotographs of figures in motion. Alongside hang other nude sketches which, although drawn from the artist's mind, might be the anatomical esquisses of a 19th- century academician.

On the opposite wall, English has hung the second element of his paintings - the taut geometrical structures that confine his figures and create a tension foreshadowed in his working method: 'I work instinctively,' he says. 'It's like extempore dance - like choreography. But there's also this need for a logic to work things out. It's like an actor walking on to the stage. You have your lines worked out and then over time you learn to improvise. The structures locate space and also rehearse the movements of the figures. I want to find a way of drawing the viewer into my paintings. I want them to follow and ultimately to overtake the figures.'

English is aware that it would be easy to allow his instinctive, improvised use of paint in the figurative element to become over-dominant. Such freedom is far from his purpose. Rather than allow his figures to blend increasingly into the background, he intends to increase the distinction between the two. 'My work needs to become more obvious, more clearly figurative. I have to be clear when I want a figure to be specific.' Only through this can English further explore his chosen theme. 'I'm now becoming more concerned with movement and change of pace. I want to understand how people check each other out. In a sense I'm courting an arena. I'm cruising.'

Simon English's work is at the Saatchi Gallery to August

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk