VETERAN artist David Grant spent 10 years drawing 106 models to create more than 1000 works, with sessions accompanied by conversations ranging from heartfelt to scandalous.
“Relationships,” he says, was a common topic that arose as subjects opened up so readily while posing. “Life and relationships in Perth.”
Originally from Zimbabwe, Grant says “I trained as a master of fine arts at Rhodes University” in the late 1960s, then came to Perth in 2000.
For many years he ran regular art classes from his Mount Hawthorn studio, but less frequently now. Grant has Kennedy’s Disease, causing progressive loss of muscle.
He uses a wheelchair now and he’s moved from visual arts mainly to writing.
“I used to teach 4-5 days a week. Now I’m down to one day.”
But during a frenetic decade of drawing he embarked on the Bodies on the Line project, which he describes as a “collaboration” with the models, many of whom lent their thoughts to the artwork in the form of short passages in their own handwriting reflecting the conversations held while posing.
Grant saw some common themes. “There was a great number of 30-year-old women who were looking for a man in their lives,” he says. “But they didn’t like men.”
One had found a gent, but decided he was too “vanilla”.
Grant recalls the first model to mention she’d opted to retain a stable of younger male partners.
“I found that very weird,” he says. “But I’m a very old man.
“But after I spoke to her, that became a theme,” with a number of models announcing non-monogamy.
The men held surprises too.
“Alwyn was a bouncer in Northbridge,” Grant recalls. “Very strong. Very physical. But very good with words,” a deep thinker even standing at his post. “Don’t expect people to be stereotypical. They’re not.”
For many models posing was subtly therapeutic, becoming more comfortable over a series of drawings, sometimes starting clothed and later opting to pose nude.
“In my experience when people pose nude they are less guarded, and they talk more.
“Being drawn, you’ve got to sit in one position for 45 minutes to an hour, and while you’re sitting there you let your guard go.”
Sometimes the therapeutic aspect was more overt. A model, Kat, who’d posed with him before, suffered an accident during the years of the project.
“Her and her mother were trying to start a fire in the backyard,” Grant says. Accelerant spilled. “She got severe burns.”
But she returned to pose, and became more comfortable with repeated drawings.
“I did a series of eight of her with her with her burns. And it brought her closure. She was very happy.”
Looking Back – Bodies on the Line runs at YMCA HQ Gallery, 60a Frame Court Leederville, weekdays until October 27.