Stranger: An Exhibition of Self-Portraits
This exhibition aims to illuminate the relevance of self-portraiture, and its aesthetic value through each individual’s varied approach to self-representation. Each work illustrates an intimate conversation between the artist and the canvas, an exploration into self-perception through painting and drawing.
In 1987, Edward Lucie-Smith and Sean Kelly curated an exhibition at Flowers Gallery that focused on the importance of the self-portrait within an artist’s practice. The exhibition featured over 60 artists and included works by Ian Breakwell, Elisabeth Frink, David Hockney, Peter Blake and Eduardo Paolozzi.
In summer 2013, Flowers Gallery revisits the contemporary role of self-portraiture. The primary objective of Stranger is to elevate the status of painting through the challenge of the self-portrait. Although the concept for Stranger has been influenced by the traditional format of self-portraiture, the realisation of these artworks has been left to the selected artists’ interpretation. From the consciously literal to the nostalgic, they experiment with their own reinvention.
The paintings in Stranger have been completed over the past year to ensure that each work is representative of the artists’ current objectives. Historically, the self-portrait was often used as a reference or educational tool; an honest depiction of an artist that reflected the environment in which he or she existed. It enabled the artist to hone their skills, studying their own form as a free and constant model. Artists such as Rembrandt used the self-portrait as a cathartic tool to chronicle their changing physicality and to develop a greater anatomical understanding. It was a method to explore emotive, even distorted facial expressions, typically out of bounds within a commissioned work.
In Tom Phillips’ Doppelganger the traditional lone figure is accompanied by his ‘other self’, whilst Ishbel Myerscough paints her daughter obscuring her own form. John Kirby’s figure references Britain’s final execution at Pentonville Prison and remains faceless. For Robert Nicol, each of his paintings is a self-portrait in some form; an element of his character is embedded within a story where he can experiment with different personae.