Murder in Mortlake – Images from a mysterious event

I awoke before the alarm to unfamiliar rays fraying the curtain edges. Today! Yes! Mortlake! New models in a church woohoo, and some artists. God knows I’d bamboozled the place with my laminated signs inviting anyone almost to a) take their clothes off, b) make some art. The big day.

I print out questionnaires for models (checking that Lucy who loves the questionnaires has not already done so). Check. Coffee, shower, clothes and train. I am meeting an Eastern European man who will let me in the building, his instructions are mostly clear. I like this dilapidated building, I mean the church isn’t bad, but the room I model in for Paul’s group has not been redecorated since the 50s I reckon. There are holes in the walls showing the bones. Yellowed lino to set off several more dreary shades of yellow and brown that adorn the cupboards. It reminds me of a room I used to live in, homely. Character. None of this Argos/Ikea bullshit.

I heft easels into the hall, sort out the heating which is so powerful there’s no need to bake the place out. It’ll whip up a temperature in no time when the models need. Sun is shining and there’s a tap at the window. Expecting Lucy I unlock the door to find an uncertain looking asian male. “Are you Esther?” I am. “I emailed you, about the modelling.” Come in, are you going to join us today?

He looks really tired but asks if I can inspect his body to see if he will be ok to model. I say there’s no need, he looks fine to me, but if the 3 hour stint will be too much bother on a warm day in Ramadan with no water, then I’m sure we can fit him in another time. He shuffles off as Lucy arrives. He hadn’t looked quite right, today, however it’s so nice to have interest from a non-white guy.

Lucy occupies the kitchen and models start to drift in and assist with easels etc. Such friendly people, and the artists too look excited as they set up.
I’m not used to being wanted this much as everyone seems to fancy a chat, but I really should gather the models. The men all arrive first which is almost worrying; but makes the emergence of a gaggle of females all the more exhilarating at the last minute. Just like Mum I remember all the models’ names, all 15. Only 2 are returning from previous events, and one is Ursula who I modelled with before. Some will go on the altar, others in the middle of the hall. They can pose how they like at first.

That crouching pose looked a killer, still that’s partly what makes new models so good – they don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for so they strike some of the best (most excruciating) poses

Sylvana is late and prefers to hang out in the changing area till break. Any anxiety she displayed before has mysteriously vanished once she is in pose. Lucy and I harrangue the models into group poses which look like scenes to show more connectedness between these almost total strangers in the buff. Sylvana is a queen on her throne, dismissing unwanted advisers and turning her nose up at suitors. I must congratulate Lucy on her dramatic skills.

Wench commands a good deal of attention

One larger woman takes the gaze off of several smaller ones

A little direction helps for connection

Towards the end no one can stand up any more

Ursula brings a friend and they make good poses together

It is eerily quiet except for scratchings of charcoal and one artist’s balmy monologue. I decide to put on some of Lucy’s music to jolly things up, but unfamilar with her selection the spirited salsa sounds I choose somehow seem too hectic; I sense a franticness amongst the artists jolted out of their calm, and a shiftiness from the models, itching to dance!

Overall I am overwhelmed by a fantastic turn out – artists I know from all over London have shown up, and almost all the models I expected have made an appearance. There’s just one thing missing. Having given up on the music I soon notice a gap in the silence. Where is the murmering that came from the table next to the piano? I’d made special arrangements for a certain peculiar man to be here after an incident of him (not meaning to) follow a model some of her journey home after the last event. But it seems my management has just now eluded him as I scan the room for his large orange headphones.

Published by esther bunting

Performer, artist, writer

5 thoughts on “Murder in Mortlake – Images from a mysterious event

  1. Oh god that was so funny (and yet true!) and the pics r brill. Your fantastic effort in racing round to get everything ready and purrfect worked. It was so cool to be part of this extravaganza – apologies for not helping to clear up (eeek).

    Yes we were all ready and keen to rip our clothes off until that is we suddenly realised we had to walk out into the middle of the assembled artists duly waiting; and me trying to make a half decent pose – well standing and lying and sitting and kneeling (even) precariously in the second pose! But after a while I just tuned in and relaxed & (admittedly) sometimes being a naughty boy moved.

    I wanted to engage with the other models in the third pose as u suggested so I held a foot but then i decided I couldn’t stay holding that position for 10 minutes let alone the expected 30 – so chickened out and looking into her eyes (hopefully not staring her silly).

    A wonderful experience which you capture very humorously!

    Kind regards

    1. Thank you Nicholas, I thought you would enjoy yourself, and you were right not to hold that tricky pose beyond reasonable discomfort. Luckily at Spirited Bodies the artists have plenty to draw which ever way they look. It is a shame you couldn’t come to the pub this time but you were there for the main event and it was all sorts of joyful 🙂

  2. “God knows I’d bamboozled the place with my laminated signs inviting anyone almost to a) take their clothes off, b) make some art.”

    I absolutely love this quote, just because I think what we as models do is something that most people find completely alien. But a model randomly walking by could walk by and think “gee, how nice to be invited to take my clothes off and help make some art–such friendly people!” 🙂 I know I pretty much jump at any opportunity to model.

    Sounds like a good time was had by all! There’s nothing better than a drawing session where there’s a super sense of energy all around–both models and artists.

    Oh, and that crouching pose–yup, I’ve definitely done that! What feels comfortable one minute in can feel utterly excruciating a minute later. Still, I remember when I was a beginning model, I took all sorts of risks like that. Sometimes they wouldn’t pan out so well, but in other instances I really surprised myself in being able to hold my pose (and learned a little bit about my body as well). Now, being somewhat more experienced, I almost feel risk-averse. Almost like I’m afraid to take a chance with a dynamic new pose that I thought up due to the fear of not being able to hold it.

  3. Thanks Jason, indeed the invitation did attract a number of local models who spotted the signs, and as well the adverts I put online to find artists also tended to yield more pro models! Clearly there is an appetite for joining up, getting to know each other and pooling resources.
    I am really similar to you when it comes to new poses now that I am experienced, not nearly as much risk taking unless I am in a particularly adventurous mood. This evening I will find out how it is to model in the group so I look forward to that new experience.

  4. Hi Esther & Jason

    Yes it all seems so long ago lol! Actually a good time was certainly had by all – me included. Despite the early wobbling and not being exactly sure where to stand/sit/… got into the spirit (no pun intended) of the event. I was tense at first but with the other models all nude around me I completely (almost) relaxed and even got some reasonable poses (I think). Next time I would probably approach things somewhat differently and be much more bold (hopefully). The last group pose was for me the best and only wish there had been more time now that I was really getting into things – it was amazing how quickly the time flew past! I wouldn’t have minded a longer session where I believe things would have gelled even more for me.

    It’s curious how I found time for meditation and became quite aware at times of my own naked body being on display and how others were viewing me – which was a strange and slightly vulnerable feeling (value judgements of others etc) and yet also liberating being free of clothes and being able to be free (if that doesn’t sound a contradiction in terms). Being nude really in some ways allows you to express yourself as you really are and not hiding behind the trammels of clothing. And yes you do learn a lot about your own body and even others’.

    Yes there was a fantastic release (even rush) of energy which really generated one’s being! I say to anyone – until you have modelled nude you haven’t really lived.

    And yes taking risks in trying to experiment – well if you can’t hold it without pain just change it – it’s all a learning curve.


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