In our latest interview, we have the pleasure of speaking with Manchester-based artist, Lorna Bent, about her incredible and extensive range of nude artwork! We discuss how it fits into the body positivity movement, the ways it differs from other styles of empowering nude art, Lorna’s favourite works to date, and a great deal more.
Britain Uncovered: Hi Lorna! It was great to hear that you recently rekindled your love of art, and we understand that this came about after 20 years or so of not painting! What made you want to give it another try, and how much are you enjoying it now versus when you first started out?
Lorna: I’ve always kept an interest and created the odd piece here and there over the years, but with the usual constraints of everyday life, work and children, it became something that I only dabbled with now and again. Then along came the lockdown and out came the brushes and canvas!
I have always been keen to revisit my love of art and photography, but never had the luxury of the time to do it. I’d say I love it even more now, as I appreciate it more and have more experience and confidence, and have truly found the passion again.
Britain Uncovered: We particularly appreciate how varied your work is, but life drawing seems to be right at the heart of your portfolio and something you’re tremendously passionate about. What was it that prompted you to undertake this type of art to begin with, and what is it that really appeals to you about life drawing and nude art in general?
Lorna: Life drawing is certainly central to my work and I have been recently taking part in further life drawing classes around Manchester to expand my techniques. I suppose that looking back I have always appreciated the female art aspect and illustrating beauty through different shapes and forms. Even my earliest portfolios going back to my teens show the beginnings of this, and early photography projects included female fashion.
I tend to paint females as I feel that it is where I can really relate and express my creativity the most, and connect to the stories and experiences behind the poses and images. For me, it’s my way of sharing those inner feelings and thoughts.
Britain Uncovered: You mentioned in another interview that you studied photography and the form of female bodies to help with your art. What specifically did this involve, and what were some of the most important things you learned during this time that you’ve since been able to apply to your art?
Lorna: While studying photography at around the age of 20, I gravitated towards editorial/fashion and it was here I discovered Helmut Newton, who predominantly photographed females in a voyeuristic manner. I think that was the start for me, and from there I developed a portfolio of fashion shots; not as voyeuristic, but with a definite Newton influence. I have taken those themes through into my art, and I think you will see the influence in what I produce.
Britain Uncovered: The body positivity movement has brought about a great deal of empowering nude art – led by the likes of Sophie Tea – and it’s designed to be bold, powerful and a joyful celebration of the female form. What do you make of this movement, and do you feel this type of art differs to more traditional life drawing art… or is it simply a natural evolution?
Lorna: The body positivity movement continues to gain momentum, and the celebration of the power of women is now at the forefront of lots of our culture, including art and sport. Sophie's art is wonderful, and a true celebration of body positivity, and it’s a modern twist and refresh on the more traditional life drawing that we all know and love. Although similar, I think my art is more of a focus on what's behind the body, and the feelings and situations that we all have to deal with.
Britain Uncovered: Would you say that your work is designed to help promote body confidence and help people to feel happier in the skin they’re in, or is that not the number one objective of your work?
Lorna: I didn’t initially start out to particularly promote body confidence – it was more about women’s feelings and telling a story, rather than body positivity. Having said that, some of my pieces are purely an appreciation of the female form, whilst others can be quite dark. My work really portrays a connection between the body and the mind, telling a story through the poses and elements surrounding them.
Britain Uncovered: How would you assess your own body confidence levels over the years, and do you feel as though the time you’ve spent focusing on the body – both as the viewer and as the artist – has shifted your views and attitudes on how you perceive yourself and/or the human body in general?
Lorna: Like most people, my own body confidence tends to fluctuate. Sometimes we are happy, sometimes we are not. I think I appreciate other bodies far more but tend to be critical of my own. People often ask, “Who are the subjects at the heart of my drawings?” Sometimes they are based on real people or commissioned by them, while other times they are not. They are not always perfect, and I try to create women who we can all connect with.
Britain Uncovered: What kind of impact are your commissions having, and what are people typically hoping to achieve when seeking to be featured in your art? Do you feel as though your depictions of women are helping them to see themselves in a different and more positive light, perhaps?
Lorna: I think my art tends to open discussions that otherwise wouldn’t have happened, and definitely helps people celebrate themselves and gives them something to look back on; something that tells their story or experiences from a key stage or event in their lives.
It can be super positive, though some can be quite dark and come from a place of vulnerability, fear or anxiety. It depends upon the subject and what they are trying to achieve.
Britain Uncovered: Several of the artists we’ve spoken to on Britain Uncovered over the past 18 months have explained to us that they’re using their platform/canvas to help desexualise the female form, and they rightly feel as though their nude art is helping to reclaim the female form from the male gaze. Is this something you’re also hoping to achieve through your art, and how important to you is this notion?
Lorna: My art is definitely not intended to be sexual, and nude doesn’t have to be sexual. It’s all about beauty, admiration and engagement. I think if the viewer actually looks at the art and tries to understand it, then they will begin to see the stories beyond the nudity.
Britain Uncovered: One of our favourite pieces of yours is Boudicca, your first mural painting and a lady that has received some well-earned praise on your Insta feed! How did this one come about, and what were you hoping to express with this? Did you enjoy working on such a large scale, or did you find it challenging to a degree?
Lorna: Thank you, it’s one of my favourites too. Boudicca was one of my very first murals for commercial premises, The Yoga Trapeze Studio. The brief came from a lady who wanted a female figure that was sexual, feminine, fierce and strong – a bit like her. I worked on different positions of nudes and this one just seemed to work, with her strong body and long hair flowing as if territorial. I used orange to create vibrancy and expression, and as if it was Boudicca herself.
I absolutely love working to large scale – the bigger the better!
Britain Uncovered: Another piece that really stands out is S O M N I U M, which is really striking and such an amazing piece. What can you tell us about this one?
Lorna: I created this piece based on the novel ‘Somnium’ by Johannes Keelper. This was written in Latin, which initially drew me to it as I am passionate about the language. I suppose the air of mystery really inspires me. You may have noticed that it features a lot in my work.
Somnium (Latin for "The Dream") is a story where the demons are overpowered by the sun. My interpretation being that we can all overcome our own demons, and the sun sets and rises everyday bringing new hope and transformation.
As a woman, I choose to use a nude female figure in which I can relate to: black and white in her appearance to emulate the simplicity of her, and nude to accentuate her vulnerability.
I experimented with the gold leaf to create texture rather than a flat painted surface. Her tattoo on her thigh written in Latin translates as ‘Nothing is always or forever’.
Britain Uncovered: Are there any other paintings you’re particularly proud of, or that have interesting stories behind them you’d be willing to share with us? Which of your pieces have been most popular since you started up again in 2020?
Lorna: I am particularly proud of ‘D O L O R’, a piece of work that means so much to me and was featured in Artist Talk Magazine. The piece was created during a very difficult period of my life with the passing of my mother. To be featured and for a chance to explain what the work was about was really helpful to me and something I will always look back on with great appreciation.
‘R E P U D I A T E ‘ is another piece in which I am particularly proud of, and this made its way to Venice in the Palazzo Albrizzi Capello to be exhibited as part of a Body Language exhibition. The event was during lockdown so unfortunately I did not get to physically see it in all its glory. Nonetheless, it was a great achievement.
Britain Uncovered: Lastly, how do you envision your art progressing in the coming year, and will life drawing remain at the heart of it? Is there anything you’d particularly like to achieve or focus on as the year unfolds?
Lorna: There are many goals that I would love to achieve this year. I really would love to have my own solo exhibition, as I have so many ideas that I would love to be able to share.I want to explore and practice more life drawing and maybe even delve into the male form, or both combined.
My main focus is to develop as an artist and gain more skills so I am able to portray my ideas and women the best I can.