Heads & Faces
FREE Artist’s Talk: Sam Porritt will hold an informal discussion in the gallery about the work at 4:30pm on Saturday 24 September followed by drinks.
This exhibition of ink drawings and sculpture by British artist Sam Porritt brings together work made over the past seven years. Porritt is primarily known for working with ideas that explore abstraction yet this selection focuses on a specific strand of his inquiry – the human head, physiognomy and the anthropomorphic potential of abstract form.
Porritt’s calligraphic use of Chinese ink acknowledges the medium’s original use with swathes of intense black gesture creating strong visual links to his interest in the pictorial possibilities of written language. The titling of the work encourages multiple readings. In some instances pairs of drawings have binary titles such as The Relationship between Cause and Effect and The Relationship between Good Pain and Bad Pleasure as if proposing a kind of unresolved argument, with each of the two drawings unwilling to commit or admit to a position.
Baghdad (2005) extends Porritt’s inquiry by the coupling of object with drawing. A dark grey and finely constructed arabesque form stands squarely on the floor. On the wall next to this is an enlarged photocopy of a small hastily drawn face. The face looks towards the object in bewilderment. Its exaggerated features create a caricature of what we instantly read as puzzlement – perhaps pre-empting our relationship to the work, but also acknowledging the inherently self-referential nature of this proposition.
Once invited to discern heads and faces from these work (as the show’s title so evidently implores us to do) we then begin to seek them out with a scrutinising eye. In Untitled, Head (2004) a Neanderthal cranium is read from the broad and robust mass while two painted heads, whose drooping features have been pulled from setting plaster, further investigate sculptural possibilities of surface, form, colour and ultimately personality.
One of the latest of Porritt’s works, I am the Problem (2011), is distinguished by its lack of features. One of a group of works using globe lights, the head is casually designated by the application of the artist’s own hair. It is also the only work to possess a body, attributed through the positioning of the lamp on a booted and gloved coffee table. Appropriately, this anthropomorphised yet faceless object does not have the same sense of self-possession, and is shackled to the wall socket by a taut electrical cord.
Put together as an opportunity to take stock and look back, this exhibition reveals the heads and faces in Porritt’s work to be a medium as much as a subject.
Sam Porritt (b.1979, London) lives and works in London and Zurich. Recent solo exhibitions include 'Going Forward...' Anne Mosseri-Marlio Gallery, Zurich (2011). 'Life is a Journey' Brown, London (2010). 'Keep the World Out' Hatsplus, London (2009). Group exhibitions include 'Oneself as Another' K3 Project Space, Zurich (2011). 'Recent British Sculpture' Grimm Gallery, Amsterdam (2010). 'Nothing Is Forever' South London Gallery, London (2010). 'Deceitful Moon' The Hayward Project Space, London. 'Double Object' Thomas Dane, London (both 2009).
Curated by Gemma Lloyd