Barefoot and shoes. Two words that shouldn’t technically make an appearance in one sentence, but they can certainly be in one place. How does this make sense? With an exhibition of shoe paintings at the Barefoot Gallery, of course! Kay Beadman’s collection of paintings based on the intricacies and nuances of the shoe, Stepping Out, is on show at the Gallery till April 22, and is a treat not to be missed.
From strappy sandals to towering jewelled stilettos that appear capable of handicapping you for life, shoes from all walks of life are part of the series of paintings that are a mix of the two and three dimensional.
|Kay Mei Ling Beadman
Kay Mei Ling Beadman, an English born half-Chinese with a half Sri Lankan partner (international artist indeed!), admits to a fascination with shoes. And it’s not just because she has an X chromosome. “Shoes can tell you such a story,” she points at a shoe with a towering heel and an impossible strap.
“For example, I got this from a friend who borrowed it from another friend just so I could paint it, and just looking at the shoe I could tell the owner was not very given to practicality and sense.” She laughs. “But those two words never really go with shoes, do they?”
The exhibit is almost a homage to the different makes of shoes that women fall in love with all over the world. For example, there are beaded sandals from Hong Kong, which she admits to being terrified of using as a model to paint as she was scared of getting paint on them-they cost over 10000 USD! A well worn leather slipper has the lighter mark of a footprint on it.
Again, a story. ‘Dorothy Grew Up’ is a trio of paintings in vibrant red; strappy red shoes reminiscent of the ruby slippers but somehow more adult and sophisticated, a wine glass, and a miniature wooden toy captured in still life. It seems almost timeless; a quality the artist stresses is what makes a shoe so fascinating.
“ I realize that I may be accused of being sexist with the theme!” she laughs, “but I can assure you that was the last thing on my mind. It’s just that women’s shoes are always so fascinating, and there are a great many details to capture, whereas with men’s footwear-well they’re great, but you can’t really paint them to the same effect, now can you?”
The paintings capture footwear that are owned and worn by real people. “I bought, borrowed, begged! These shoes all exist and they all have character-which is what I tried to capture here.” The artist currently lives in Hong Kong, which she admits made things easier when it came to finding the right fit of shoe, so to speak. “Hong Kong is a fashion capital. So it was very easy for me to find shoes that I wanted to paint. Sometimes friends would bring shoes to my studio and command me to paint them! They didn’t always make the cut, but some of them have and they’re some of the best pieces.”
The paintings are up for sale as well. Kay grins as she recalls an instance when a friend wanted to buy a painting solely because the shoe in question was a depiction of a Louis Vuitton. “There are some of us who do buy shoes for practicality, but that’s very rare. For women, shoes are like a status symbol.
They can show your social standing, and they can determine exactly how confident you are!” For Kay herself, shoes are not something she wants to be painting for the rest of her life. She painted these especially for Barefoot, a location she fondly calls the “perfect place for my work”.
The exhibits are vibrant in colour, and Kay thanks Sri Lanka for changing her visual perspective. She worked mainly with darker colours before, an attribute she pinpoints to having grown up in England.
She started visiting the island almost a decade ago, when she met her partner, and says that her colour palette was transformed. Nowadays, vibrant colours are what Kay is known for.
‘Stepping Out’ is certainly good enough reason to step out of your home this weekend-or any day of the week, and head over to the Barefoot Gallery. The exhibition is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.