BP Portrait Award 2016 Lincoln Usher Gallery (November 2016) & National Portrait gallery
When I visited the exhibition I was as interested in the texts accompanying the portraits as I was the portraits and art work.
I NOTED THAT THE SITTERS RARELY LOOKED COMFORTABLE, AND ANXIETY SEEMED TO BE A COMMON THEME:
A PORTRAIT OF MY SON. Miseon lee (b.1959)
The artist says: ‘This painting focuses on the uncertainty of youth where young minds are left confused on the brink of adulthood.’
A NUMBER OF PORTRAITS USED OR TALKED ABOUT MIRRORS AND REFLECTIONS:
DIVERSION (Oil on board). Charlie masson (b.1987)
This is a self-portrait of the artist seen in the screen of his mobile phone. Phones and tablets are often used as impromptu mirrors, although the artist comments that they have also ‘become an extension of our bodies, containing all sorts of information pertaining to our identity.’
SELF-PORTRAIT IN PEMBROKE STUDIOS (Oil, charcoal and wax on panel). Eileen Hogan (b.1946)
Since 2013 Hogan has used a studio that belonged to Leonard Rosoman. Hogan says: ‘He used a mirror on a hinge to gain a different perspective on his paintings, and I kept getting glimpses of myself at work. I came upon this image of myself by gradual, stealthy approach.’
A FEW ARTISTS EMPLOYED PROPS FOR DIFFERENT REASONS:
PORTRAIT IN THE MIRROR: THE VEIL (Oil on canvas). Antonio laglia (b.1953)
The portrait is of Natasha, a professional model who has worked with Laglia for some time. He describes the process as: ‘The model entered the studio and sat in front of the mirror and just for fun tried some hats. When she found an old white hat with a veil, her reflection became the starting point for work to begin’.
TO SENSE WHAT IS COMING (Oil on panel). Jane Gardiner (b.1974)
The artist organised sittings with friends to create sketches, photographs and reference material for when she had recovered. Gardiner wanted to explore how people use props to tell stories about themselves and provided a range of crowns, ears and masks from which they could choose.
TAD (SON OF THE ARTIST) (Oil on canvas). John Borowicz (b.1968)
The portrait is of the artist’s son. Borowicz says: ‘This portrait came about quite by surprise. One day my youngest son found a large paper bag and instinctively put it on his head. While wearing the hat he became even more animated than usual, like an actor going into character. This transformation represented the notions of play and discovery in the purest sense.’
KARINA IN HER RAINCOAT (Oil on canvas). Brian Sayers (b.1954)
The portrait is of the artist’s friend Karina. Sayers says: ‘I wanted the coat to be the main focus. The dramatic shape inspired me in relation to the figure it contained, particularly the way it enveloped her, and the colour.’ Karina happened to be gesticulating while chatting; the pose was captured in one of Sayers’s reference photographs.
I NOTED THE TECHNIQUES THAT ARTIST USED TO DELIBERATLY PORTRAY THEIR SUBJECTS IN CERTAIN WAYS:
RÉGIS (Oil on canvas). Christophe Therrien (b.1966)
Therrien aimed to capture a simple, ordinary gesture of everyday life of his friend. As Régis looks up into the dramatic light coming from above, the pose takes on added tension, while the low viewpoint was chosen to give intimacy to the moment.
I WAS ALSO INTERESTED IN THE BACKGROUNDS AND OTHER PROPS THAT GAVE CONTEXT TO THEIR SUBJECTS:
PORTRAIT OF MARTIN CHAFFER (Oil on canvas). SOPIO CHKHIKVADZE (b.1972)
The portrait is of the photographer, Martin Chaffer, whom has a particular interest in paintings and agreed to several sittings with the artist. Chkhikvadze decided to paint Chaffer with a map of London to provide an interesting visual context.
FALK (Oil on canvas). David von Bassewitz
The portrait is of the artist’s close friend Falk, depicted in his apartment, filled with books, paintings, drawings and sculptures. Von Bassewitz says: ‘It is like entering Falk’s train of thought. You could say his apartment in itself is a kind of portrait with him at the centre.’ Background can be a portrait with subject at centre like two pictures back to back. The shape and background in this picture facinated me.
THERE WERE FEW SELF PORTRAITS:
INSOMNIA (Oil and resin on wood). Diego Aznar (b.1985)
This is a self-portrait, of which Aznar says: ‘In this painting I attempt to depict a state of anxiety by using a deeply shadowed background and a view from above. I’m interested in different aspects of human behaviour and how they are perceived by society.’
SELF (Oil on board). Shany Van Den Berg (b.1958)
This self-portrait was undertaken in a short time frame of 9–10 days to create focus and clarity. The artist says: ‘In the age of instant selfies, fleeting likes and constant sharing, there is something wonderful about the permanence of a self-portrait painting. It invites repeated musing and offers newly discovered details even after a thousand views.’
SOME PORTRAITS WERE OF INTEREST TO ME MAINLY BECAUSE OF THE ACCOMPANYING TEXT THAT EXPLAINED THE ARTIST’S MOTIVES RATHER THAN FOR THE PORTRAIT ITSELF:
FRANCESCA (Oil on canvas). Daniele Vezzani (b.1955)
The portrait is of the artist’s daughter, Francesca. In creating this work he took inspiration from an earlier photograph of Francesca as a teenager while her personality was forming. He says: ‘The left part of the face is watching us carefully, the right one seems to be looking inside herself.’
SILENCE (Tempera on board). Bo Wang (b.1981)
The portrait is of Bo Wang’s grandmother, lying in a hospital bed during the last stages of cancer and losing her ability to speak. Wang says that they had a sometimes difficult relationship until the onset of illness brought about a belated reconciliation. He says: ‘Sometimes she tilted her head and looked at me. There was too much emotion in her eyes to be expressed in words,’
PIA (Oil on board). Gentian Lulani (b.1972)
The portrait is of Pia, a friend of the artist, whom he met in Ireland. Lulani says ‘he was impressed’: by her abundance of ideas, plans, dreams and enthusiasm. It was not just her physical portrait that I wanted to paint, but her energy for her life ahead.’
LAURA IN BLACK (Oil on linen). Joshua Larock (b.1982)
He says: ‘I sought a gesture and expression, along with a subdued colour palette, that is wistful, evoking a vague but deep longing. Her gaze is direct and bold, but also distant, searching for something unknown.’
THE LAST PAINTING DREW MY INTEREST BECAUSE OF MY READING AROUND PHOTOGRAPHERS USING IMAGES TO EXPLORE IDENTITIES AND RELATIONSHIPS:
DAD SCULPTING ME (Oil on linen). Jamie Coreth (b.1989)
This was given the BP YOUNG ARTIST AWARD. The judges commented that “We were drawn to the timeless quality of the painting and its treatment of a father and son relationship through art. It is a generational painting of the artist’s father sculpting a portrait of the artist”.
The portrait of the artist’s father, Mark Coreth, was painted entirely from life over the course of a month in the sculptor’s studio. ‘My father has influenced me greatly in my work and given that it is a relatively strange thing for a sculptor to raise a painter, I thought it could be an interesting father–son project to make portraits of one another at the same time,’ says Coreth.
MY LEARNING POINTS:
- To consider the importance of mobile phones and other personal technology when exploring personal identites.
- Think about using mirrors to give different perspectives on portraits/self-portrait
- Remember props can be used to put subjects at ease or to help to bring out elements of their characters.
- Consider lighting and viewpoint to give the desired emphasis and effect.
- Remember the importance of the background to give context.
- Try to work in a short time frame to retain focus and clarity
Excerpts of the accompanying texts by kind permission of Collections access Officer, The Usher gallery Lincoln.
Npg.org.uk. (2017). BP Portrait Award 2016 – Exhibitors. [online] Available at: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/bp2016/exhibition/exhibitors/ [Accessed 17 Apr. 2017].
Please note: Any images by other artists used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.