‘Geordie Girl in a red dress’, (2011). Oil on linen, 90 x 120 cm2011
I met Margaret Clark at art school in Newcastle upon Tyne in the late 1950s where she was studying fine art and printed textiles. She lived with her sister Patsy and parents in the poor, working class, West End district of Elswick (178 Stone St) not far from Newcastle's football ground - St Jame's Park - and the Scotswood Rd. The houses consisted of two flats and she lived in an upper one. To reach an outside toilet and coal bunker one had to descend a flight of steps into a small back yard. (There were no gardens front or back.) This was a cold and hazardous journey during snowy winters. Her father worked in a shipyard and his Geordie accent was so strong I could hardly understand him. Her mother was of Irish origin and a staunch Catholic. Despite her lowly origins, Margaret earned a place at university and she was design and fashion conscious. She often made her own clothes by imitating images in fashion magazines. She wore such a red dress - a common fashion icon - made from a soft, body-hugging material when we were courting and naturally it prompted a highly erotic episode. American academics have even conducted psychological research into the erotic power of red dresses. What appealed to me about this combination of portrait and townscape was the contrast between the youthful beauty of the female and the drab environment in which she had grown up.
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