Sacha Newley: Revealing all All of London's art crowd were there at last night's opening of paintings by Sacha Newley. Sacha Newley’s latest commission was an unenviable one - he boarded a plane in February to Los Angeles, knowing that it would be the last time he would paint his father, the actor and composer Anthony Newley, who died from cancer a month ago. The artist's client list would not disgrace a top Hollywood agent; he's had commissions to paint Gore Vidal, Oliver Stone, Dominick Dunne, Billy Wilder, Nigel Hawthorne, Steven Berkoff and, of course, his own mother, Joan Collins. His portraits in pastels (which have a nerve-like anatomical overlay) are Freudian in both senses - being inspired by the work of Lucien Freud and having obvious psychological overtones.
In the studio, above, and left with Anthony Newley and Joan Collins
"You have to reveal yourself," he smiles, "otherwise the work is of no interest to anybody." Many of his portraits have included a degree of self-portraiture. "Sometimes, when I was meant to be painting the subject, I was actually painting myself. When I painted Gore, he told me, 'I look like God on the seventh day having decided it was all a terrible mistake. You keep it, my boy." Oliver Stone says: “I see Sacha as an Isaac Newton of British art.” And though Dominick Dunne was too manic to pose while he was being painted and worked at his desk during the sittings, he raves: "The portrait was so wonderful we used it on the jacket of my last book, Another City, Not My Own." Newley went after many of his celebrity subjects, but has never been refused. The American-style confidence it took to do that is the only real sign that he was brought up in LA. His parents separated when he was three, and his father went to live in America while his mother stayed in England to look after Sacha and his elder sister, Tara. He then lived in LA, before being sent to school in Leicestershire at age 14. Dad was also a very good painter and I used to beg him to the end to paint, but he said, 'No, no, you're the painter.' For all his talk of psychoanalysis, obsession and self-revelation, Newley does not remotely come across as the "tortured artist". He could scarcely appear more well adjusted. "I'm moderately temperamental. I've always had a lot of selfdiscipline, which probably comes from my mother. I love my mother, and my father was the most extraordinary man I’ve ever met, so there’s no grievance there. Of his two pictures of his mother, he prefers the more “brutal” one. “I think it’s much better; I was painting her psyche, her energy. "Self portraits are the difficult things," he continues, "because you never quite get it right. You always want to express your sense of anger. I called the show Nerves Upon A Screen because of the line in The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock - when he says something like, 'it's impossible to say exactly what I mean, but if a magic lantern were to throw my nerves in patterns upon a screen…' I loved that image of the frustration of language - he wants to shine a light through his nervous system and create the ultimate picture of himself."
Syrie Johnson Evening Standard April 7, 1999