Collyer Bristow Gallery presents: Face Value, curated by Kathleen Soriano
Exhibition:16 June – 5 October 2016
Recordings of the human face have been part of our iconography since the beginning of time, from rock carvings to the encaustic Egyptian mummy portraits on the coffins of the well-to-do, and on the coinage that disseminated the imagery of our kings and Holy Roman Emperors, as well as in the flattering marriage portraits that were presented to them in an attempt to secure their hand.
In the 20th and 21st centuries we have moved through dramatic periods of celebrity-obsessed culture where characters from the world of politics and the arts, including Oscar Wilde, Dame Ellen Terry, Sir Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Princess Diana, David Beckham and Kim Kardashian, have filled our newspapers and magazines, and more recently our ‘bookmarked’ news and gossip websites. However, since the arrival of the hand-held device with its inbuilt camera, the selfie-generation has emerged and our focus has finally turned on ourselves.
In the hierarchy of painting, portraiture famously came second to history painting yet, if asked to name a well-known artist people would invariably list one of the great portrait painters such as Holbein, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Velazquez, Goya, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Manet, Picasso, Lucien Freud or David Hockney.
A good portrait is not just about a confident likeness, and should not only provide the viewer with a strong sense of the character of the sitter, his or her wealth and position, values, morals and current concerns, but might also suggest a narrative that opens a more expressive window into the sitter’s or artist’s world. In Bruce French’s True Love Swipes we see a contemporary play on traditional Chinese ink painting which in this case is employed in the recording of the individuals that French ‘encounters’ when swiping through the dating website, Tinder. Isabel Castro Jung, in her performance piece Anemoi H2O, recorded here in a photograph, portrays herself clothed in a dress made of sail-cloth that floats seductively across the sea whilst at the same time threatening to drown her, as she struggles with notions of identity and belonging. Alexander Massouras simply, but elegantly, tells us a story in The Gilderbook series of etchings, stealthily managing to incorporate portraits of well-known figures such as the artists Edward Lear and Kurt Schwitters, as well as the architect Mies van der Rohe. Ishbel Myerscough subverts the portrait tradition in recording, with intense maternal fondness, the back of her young daughter’s head whilst Liz Rideal, Mariele Neudecker and Paul Benney all consider the spiritual and our ultimate demise, questioning our purpose and what remains. Helen David’s self-portrait forms part of a series of works, intended to go from baby blanket to shroud, telling the story of the evolution of her identity with particular regard to gender and religion. In her work, Not a Good Girl Yet, we see the second in the series, recording the development of the super ego at the age of 3.
The exhibition also allows room for politics, love and irreverence. Bouke de Vries’ porcelain head nods to the challenges of the Arab Springs, whilst Lee Jeffries’ photographs confront us with the painful beauty of the homeless, and Annie Kevans reminds us of the many forgotten women of history. Sam Faulkner reflects on contemporary history in his series of photographs of battle re-enactors, taken in a mobile studio in the field of Waterloo. Anthony Green RA cheekily celebrates his long partnership with his wife Mary, and Hattie Stewart literally takes a pen to the celebrity magazines of today, doodle-bombing the air-brushed and photo-shopped images to within an inch of their lives.
Face Value seeks to consider the range and value of portraiture today in the work of twenty seven artists working in the broadest range of media – from oils to watercolour, from porcelain to thread, from abstraction to figurative work, gently pushing the boundaries of what might be considered to be portraiture. In so doing it illustrates the enduring relevance of the genre.
Exhibition curated by Kathleen Soriano
Exhibited Artists:Glenys Barton
Isabel Castro Jung
Stephen Chambers RA
Eileen Cooper RA
Bouke de Vries
Anthony Green RA
Lee Jeffries / Annie Kevans
Tai Shan Schierenberg
Illustrations (from left to right)
Eyes Closed, Kathryn, 2016 by Laura New; Capitaine, 2015 by Tai Shan Schierenberg; Anemoi H2O, 2013 by Isabel Castro Jung; With Good Grace, 2009 by Eileen Cooper RA; She’s Light (Pure), 2013 by Chris Levine
Collyer Bristow Gallery, 4 Bedford Row, London WC1R 4TF
Twitter: @CBGallery1 Instagram: @collyer_bristow_gallery
Viewing is by appointment only, Monday to Friday, during office hours.
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