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Lucian Freud’s feathered friend

June 17, 2010

The reclusive artist has made a rare screen appearance, alongside a kestrel. Cath Clarke reports

lucian freud kestrel

Bird’s eye view … Lucian Freud with a kestral in Small Gestures in Bare Rooms. Photograph: Tim Meara.

How do you tempt the notoriously reclusive painter Lucian Freud to appear in a film? With a kestrel, it turns out. And a zebra. It worked for Tim Meara, an artist and film-maker whose 15-minute short, Small Gestures in Bare Rooms, boasts cameos by the 87-year-old artist. In his first scene, Freud walks silently along Regent’s Canal in London with a bird of prey perched on his hand. He holds it tenderly and respectfully, his beady eyes a match for the bird’s. In another scene, he strokes the muzzle of a zebra while a dancer performs close by.

Small Gestures in Bare Rooms is Freud’s first significant appearance on film since 1988, when he was interviewed by the BBC; though to see Small Gestures in full, you will have to go to the Pompidou in Paris for the gallery’s Freud retrospective. Meara reckons the notion of Freud as the cloistered artist is a myth. “He eats out every night and goes to parties,” he says. It’s just that he’s fiercely protective of his time and image, all of which adds to the thrill of seeing him in the flesh, strolling along in a tweed overcoat, the collar of his shirt in tatters.

When 33-year-old Meara first approached Freud’s long-standing assistant, David Dawson, it was not to film the artist. He just wanted access to the Holland Park studio where Freud has painted for 30 years. “I think he agreed because I didn’t want to interview him,” says Meara. Freud no longer works in the fifth-floor attic, but it has been left untouched. It’s still instantly recognisable from his paintings: walls barnacled with daubs of paint, grubby sink, brushes on the floor. It was here that Freud’s subjects – among them Leigh Bowery, David Hockney and Kate Moss – paid daily visits, some sitting for a year or longer. If only those daubed walls could talk.

Read more at:  Lucian Freud’s feathered friend

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