Jul 7 - Jul 29
11:00 - 17:00
Gillian Jason Gallery
Portraiture. Pictures of people poised and posed as the artist sees them. Within a vociferous culture of image, self image, social credit, virtue signalling, personal ID and code switching artists reflecting on personhood have the opportunity to challenge what is a ‘real’ person within an increasingly virtualised existence. It is possible to live socially and economically through a persona completely unrelated to a physical body and in such case what would a ‘real’ portrait look like?
Objectification in art and portraiture is a murky topic because anyone depicted in a painting is at the whim and talent of the painter, male or female. The idea of redressing this imbalance is somewhat opaque. One could legislate that we should burn all paintings didn’t please the depicted, but one of the values of art is that it conveys truths as seen by the artist. Suggestive, uncomfortable, overlaid with preconceptions and hidden revelations it’s the unexpected depth that marks great portraiture. The bold challenge of this exhibition is how these artists are entering into this discourse. More than creating laborious selfies they are looking, like all portrait painters, to find the essence of the sitter, to depict the detailed substance of existence that speaks beyond the surface and to the soul of being.
Exhibition Notes: Face to Face II
‘Face to Face II’ presents a selection of international female artists revisiting Portraiture as we approach a new era of this genre. Portraiture has always been a pillar of art history, taking different forms throughout its development: from the Egyptian statues of Pharaohs to the Renaissance frescos of patrons, from Lucien Freud’s impasto works all the way to Warhol’s screen-prints. The dawn of the 21st Century allowed Portraiture to free itself from standardised canons, leading contemporary artists to engage with the genre with a multitude of different styles while exploring meaningful undertones and conveying significant messages.
Over the centuries, Portraiture has also often involved issues of privilege, raising the question of who has access to representation and who is erased, which bodies have been marginalised and overlooked, or exploited and appropriated, diminished and fetishised. Women, who have been frequently used as sitters with recurrent objectifying nuances, are now able to stand on the other side of the canvas and to reclaim their own image. This shift from represented object (or excluded object) to creating subject is a powerful one.
The reciprocal nature of the title ‘Face to Face’ suggests the exhibition’s aim to subvert the exclusionary history of Portraiture. While illustrating the various stylistic possibilities of Portraiture, the artists in this exhibition reiterate their role as creating subjects subverting the male gaze that has historically been the main focus of view and representation.
Face to Face II, the second iteration of our November 2022 group show, is part of the campaign ‘Portrait Mode’, launched by the National Portrait Gallery to mark their 2023 reopening, involving collaborations with art-world players across the UK and internationally.