A Portrait of Alan Cumming | Christian Hook


I think it’s about capturing a moment in
time, and those are amazing pictures, but what I really like, and what has really interested
me about this whole experience, is capturing the essence of someone. The best kind of portrait
is where the artist and the sitter connect well enough so that the artist can go away
and give his interpretation, but also a full and true interpretation to the world of what
that person is like at that time in their lives. I was selected to go to New York. I spent,
like, a week with Alan Cumming, and never knew anything about him before, and I didn’t
look it up either, intentionally, so when I got there it was like meeting this new,
you know, entity like person, and I just thought, I want to be true to what the person is like,
really, so my process of finding out, like, through these sittings what he’s like, I
think, was quite interesting. I just thought it would be nice to just sit
still and do nothing and contemplate, but it wasn’t at all like that. It was quite
raucous and I really liked it because I felt engaged with him and not just someone sitting.
At one point he asked me to, you know, to actually paint [laughs]. I actually painted
on the canvas. I decided to flip positions with him, so basically
he became the painter and I became the actor, really, so he started painting and I … and
he interviewed me instead of the other way around, and I think that, that process itself of him
… he doesn’t know how to paint but the collaboration of him trying to, like, paint
what he was talking about, made, like, a visual reference for me for my painting. So he actually,
like, drew all the things that were important to him. My dog, Honey, had died a couple of months
before I met him, and there’s lots of pictures of her in my room and he, obviously, could
tell I was so sad and there was such a loss in me, and so he put her, he put a jar of
honey in the picture. He told me he was going to do that and I kind of thought, “aw, I
wonder if he’s going to?” because that’s kind of … but he did. The top hat obviously represented his theatre
work, and the kilt represented his, you know, he’s a really proud Scotsman. He feels really strongly
about his identity and his sexuality. He did a book as well, I think, he did a few photos
on a book on nudes so I just, like, switched it over; he’s, like, kind of nude. The kilt
suddenly becomes something different. Like, although Scottish, it becomes like a sexual
object. It’s got all this, like, dominance and passiveness, or whatever, you know. It’s
got that element of sexuality in it and, erm, I think it changes the way the kilt is seen. What does it reveal about me? Erm [laughs]
my immediate reaction is that I have no penis [laughs]. I mean, I didn’t do anything to
make it this beautiful picture, but I was open to him and I told him of things that
meant something to me, and so he has represented those things in the picture. So it’s an
emotional collaboration. I just tried to encapsulate everything that
I learned about him during the time that I was there, and show a true depiction of what
he’s like as a person. More than just, you know, his physical appearance. You know, when you’re famous you get … less
so painted but you get photographed all the time like all the time, and sometimes it’s
really amazing because you meet someone who’s another artist and you feel you’ve collaborated
and made something really … that you like and you’re proud of, rarely. But this is
sort of that to the nth degree.

10 Replies to “A Portrait of Alan Cumming | Christian Hook”

  1. Thank you for sharing this intimate look into Alan Cummings personal journey. I love him as an actor. He's remarkable. And so are you and your art, Christian Hook.

  2. Christian Hook is a very talented artist and this portrait of Alan Cumming is incredible. It's quite an intimate portrait. Wonderful. Love the fact that Alan's dog honey is remembered in this picture, too.

  3. The artist and Cumming are talented but does anyone else think a picture of a naked man with a kilt around his neck represents a proud Scotsman?

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