Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I was terribly shocked this morning to learn that Tiffany McNab has died. Somewhere along the line the bush telegraph has broken down.

This is the first occasion I can remember on which a direct contemporary of mine has died—something of a Rubicon experience.

Tiffany was a dear person, and a considerable artist. I have an early etching of hers, full of vigor and life. It is an attenuated figure, clambering in mid-air, with lots of plate tone, burr, bite, and velvety ink-black emphasis—a work of early maturity. As a young art student she was the embodiment of fun, but the sort of fun that was built on kindness. She embodied all the best qualities of a country upbringing, near Lismore I think. Her laugh was a bell; her hair a luminous red in Depeche Mode. She was magnificently tall; her legs came up to here. When I first knew her at the beginning of 1983 she wore skirts made of unprimed canvas, but decorated with hand-painted neo-constructivist post-De Stijl motifs, a good-humored riff on the color-field aesthetic. She also wore—according to Charles Gillies—an ammunition belt for the Harraway tennis tournament. I remember being deeply impressed by learning that Ned Brew had sat for Tiffany in the
ad hoc art room, not merely nude but adopting the pose of the Barberini faun. It has taken me more than twenty-five years to pluck up the courage to follow suit, though of course in my case the pose is that of the Louvre odalisque brune by Boucher, quite a different proposition. I’m not sure I would ever have had the courage to pose for Tiffany, whose visual assessments were sharper and more accurate than suits the current state of my love portions. She was a wonderful friend to Margaret Kirby and, especially, to dear David Harley. I seem to recall Bohemian evenings spent with all of them, and Tim Klingender, and Julian Mitchell, and so many others. In a very real way they taught me all about letting go, and having fun. I regret very much that for most of the past twenty-three years we lived on different continents, and that I didn’t make a far better effort to keep in touch.

Vale dear Tiffany.

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