New show: Jacqueline Strachan, seated, with a model. Her show opens this evening at Masterworks. *Photo supplied
New show: Jacqueline Strachan, seated, with a model. Her show opens this evening at Masterworks. *Photo supplied

Portrait artist Jacqueline Strachan is known for capturing the true spirit of her subject. 

She sits for countless hours with her models painting and getting to know them. 

She has a new exhibition opening — The Red Thread — this evening at Masterworks from 5:30pm. 

Juliz Ritchie sat down with the artist to find out more about her.


Why have you decided to call the Master Works show, “The Red Thread”?

Jacqueline Strachan: According to Chinese philosophy we are all connected to one another with a red thread. It is the ‘red thread’ that brings our destinies together. The red plumb line is the symbolic red thread that connects me to my model, the starting point for my painting. 

Do you work with live models? 

I only work with live models. A typical session starts at 8:30 am and continues until 4:00 pm every day. It takes three to four months to finish a piece.

What happens between you and your model during this period? 

I constantly measure and observe my models to captivate their true essence to portray them as heart felt as possible. 

Is ‘the red thread’ experience close to being on a “red couch” of a psychoanalyst?

We mutually open up to one another, there is emotional bonding. Layers and layers of my model’s life experience and psyche come to light. It is like peeling an onion. I start painting with a certain ‘end vision’, as I develop more understanding around my model, my ‘vision’ evolves. During this process I also move through the layers of my own psyche and experience healing. 

One of my models said; “it is amazing, your whole attention is on me you are looking at me, hearing me, I have never experienced this before”. 

Why do you prefer to work with life models? 

The process brings my models’ history, desires and day-to-day thinking out. Consciousness comes into play. Their personality, authentic self surfaces as the painting evolves. Painting from a photograph is a second hand interpretation. My own evolution, healing and understanding will be missing.

Is there a common theme for ‘The Red Thread’ exhibition?

Although some artists incorporated the locals in their work, if you fast-forward history, unfortunately the art in Bermuda doesn’t inform us about Bermudians. The people who make up the very fabric of this society and their lives are not represented in the arts. A significant cultural element is missing. Therefore I wanted to portray the locals.

Why ‘black’ models only?

I wanted to explore the tone and darkness as it fascinates me. Dark colours absorb the light. I wanted to explore what did black people absorbed, what sort of experiences molded them into being?

What are your aesthetic values? 

It starts with an emotional connection to a person or an object. Symbolically what ever deeply affects the other person, in return deeply affects me. It is a healing session. 

Is the use of Chiaroscuro lighting reference to Renaissance? 

My great grandfather was a Dutch impressionist who came from an era of portraits artists.  Methodical systems of measuring along with limited colour palates are my passion that forces me to work harder to observe colour and tone.

Why portraits?

At the time I decided to go to Art school, everything was about installations and contemporary art. I wanted to practice ‘old school’ painting to train and improve my observation and measuring. 

How do you relate to the contemporary art scene and the shifting boundaries within it?

As long as the artist’s process is authentic, the artist is true to their medium and I can connect to the piece emotionally, the rest doesn’t matter.

What do you think of Bermuda art scene? 

Diverse, passionate and creative but sometimes not fully understood, nor appreciated. I believe it is imperative that there is a continuing international dialogue, portrayed through art and that it’s reflective of what is happening in society.

Jacqueline Strachan’s The Red Thread exhibition opening 22nd May 5:30 pm– 7pm at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in the Botanical Gardens.