Guy Rusha’s painting Royal Wedding is composed of various kinds of touch – thick and sloppy, dry and skittering, fast and loose – which draw parallels, as a nude subject in painting always will, between the brush and the hand. To paint a thing is to reconstruct it through touch, a truism with erotic connotations that are doubled if the subject is itself, as here, an erotic one. Flesh takes up the majority of the painting’s space. Buttocks, labia and torso stack up like sculpture. With the face and legs cropped out of the frame, this might be a photo passed between lovers or an image culled from porn: its closeness implies an awareness of being looked at, a desire to please. Rusha’s title is a nod to the 2011 royal wedding, during which many commentators considered the bum of the bride’s sister to be a particular highlight; the artist claimed he wanted to paint his girlfriend’s bum, “as [he] thought it was better than Pippa’s.” As prosaic as this might sound, it’s no different from Picasso’s 1930s transformations of his girlfriend Marie-Therese Walter’s body into a playground of holes, bums and breasts, and Rusha’s work belongs in the same category, of art’s ability to reshape the world according to the artist’s desire. Despite all this, there’s something almost elegiac about Rusha’s painting – its blanched and dusty palette seems drained of heat, like sensual pleasure recollected in tranquility.
Text by Ben Street