Somaya Critchlow knows that we’re supposed to be moving away from making images of naked female bodies. Bodies that are socially and sexually available. But her paintings express the appeal of stripping a figure bare. “People try to position my work as being sex-positive or political or whatever – and it’s not, it’s just investigative,” says the London-based artist, who is warm, open and softly spoken in the way that bright people often are. “I’m not trying to be an activist. But I do enjoy painting and I do enjoy my subject matter. Maybe that’s selfish.”
It seems to be working. This year, Critchlow’s small and intense portraits of curvy Black women in various stages of undress have featured in major group exhibitions across the UK and a solo show at Maximillian William gallery in London. Opening this weekend are a couple of shows she has curated at the Lightbox gallery in Woking – Lucian Freud and the Soul As Sphere – which are anchored around two of her great loves: figurative art and her grandfather, the late artist Keith Critchlow.