Exhibition Review: Reportrait at Nottingham Castle
It is no wonder that portraiture has endured millennia as a favoured and endlessly fascinating form of art. We gather a multitude of information from observing a portrait, from mood and personality to age, status and era, building a narrative in our minds of the sitter and their story. And yet, there is much mystery in these images of people long gone, who are perhaps only remembered by this one fixed moment in time.
Building on this already captivating art form, Reportrait exhibits the work of thirteen artists who each reimagine traditional portraiture, using sculpture, texture, photography, context or digital means. Transforming each image they not only add new layers to the story of the sitter, but present a fresh look at how we create and consume portraiture in the 21st century.
I was lucky enough to be shown around the latest exhibition by Exhibitions Officer and Curator Tristam Aver, who expertly explained the concepts behind their latest show Reportrait. The show was a playful take on classic art, and whether you know or care for your Monets and Manets or not, you’re likely to be intrigued. If you want to delve further into the exhibition yourself I’d highly recommend picking up one of the handy booklets which are available on your way in!
Merging both video and sculpture, the first piece in the exhibition is Model by James E Smith, which explores the hands-on process of sculpture making, which is rarely seen or considered. A video projection of a young model being measured up by an artist dominates the wall above the grand stairs of the South Hall. We watch the model’s discomfort as the drill-like 3d scanner is moved intimately around her body and the viewer is forced to ponder the interrogative technique used. The final result to accompany the film is a classical style sculpture created digitally using 3d printing, and as a result has come out slightly haphazard, suggesting traditional techniques are still superior to modern equivalents.
Found in vintage shops, on Ebay, in auctions and high school yearbooks, the images used by Julie Cockburn are transformed by ‘imaginative interventions’ of hand embroidery, collage, and fragmentation. Cockburn then uses a Google Images tool to find a ‘matching’ picture which resembles her work in colour, shape or form, then looks for an object which reflects the image found. For Reportrait, instead of using internet images, Julie used the Nottingham City Museums and Galleries database to match her works to objects housed in the castle collection itself. The process is playful and new meanings are added to the original photograph each time it is altered.
I particularly loved Sasha Bowles mischievous and bizarre re-imaginings of classical portraits. Inhuman creations take the place of the sitter, with poisonous looking features bursting from elaborate ruffs and opulent costumes.
Reportrait is definitely worth a visit if you want to give your curiosity a bit of a boost. The manner in which each artist has taken the concept of the portrait and modified it pushes the medium in unique ways, and you might just leave inspired to look at your photographs in a new light.
Before you pop off home however, make sure to explore Nottingham Castle further! Being local and having visited ten years or so ago I naively thought I’d seen all there was to see, but soon realised there was actually a lot more than expected. There is a diverse wealth of history, art and culture that is the framework of Nottingham Castle, from local history to beautiful donated artefacts. On your way out walk through the grounds and snake around the edge of the clifftop to be presented with extraordinary views of Nottingham.
Following a £29.4 million Heritage Lottery Funding grant Nottingham Castle, the ‘jewel in Nottingham’s crown’, is set to close later this year for a grand revamp. You can read about the exciting transformations, restorations, additions and embellishments set to be made on the Castle website, but for now make sure you don’t miss out before it closes to the public until 2020!