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New Nottingham Castle exhibition offers an alternative look at portraits 


Nottingham Castle’s latest exhibition – Reportrait – offers a new perspective on portraiture. This exclusive show will run from 27 May to 10 September and challenges viewers not to take work at ‘face value’.

The portrait has continued to be one of the most recognised, revisited, and arguably the most celebrated art forms throughout history. Reportrait demonstrates how traditional figurative, often classical, portraiture continues to inspire contemporary artists, and remains a hot topic in art today.

The exhibition showcases thirteen artists who have reimagined historical portraits which play on classic notions of how the portrait is defined, or which use an image or reproduction as a starting point to create something new.

The works are either new commissions made in direct response to the Nottingham City Museums and Galleries collections, along with loans or works straight from the artist’s studios.

There is a mixture of painting, photography, installation, digital art, sculpture, video and drawing; many of which have never been seen in public before.

At a first glance we may recognise the source – especially where a historic painting, image or sculptural form is familiar to us, but each artist has made an unsettling step forward where original contexts have been exaggerated, altered, removed or even subverted into something fresh, challenging, and ultimately, exciting.

Students from New College Nottingham have also designed an interactive, family-friendly project and learning gallery in response to this new exhibition –   The ‘Faces’ project lab. This is suitable for all ages.

Cllr Dave Trimble – Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture said: “This is another ground breaking exhibition at Nottingham Castle which offers an alternative view on traditional art and embraces the idea we shouldn’t be afraid to challenge art, however highly regarded. Each person will respond to these works in ways unique to them. I would also urge people to visit our project lab to learn more about portraiture and the pictures we have at Nottingham Castle, as well as creating their own masterpieces or digital sculptures when visiting.”

The artists

Artists Glenn Brown, Matthieu Leger and Jake Wood-Evans use iconography of past nobility, aristocracy, government dignitaries and forgotten figures within their paintings. They use techniques such as reworking, glitching (using digital or analog errors to either corrupt digital data or physically manipulating electronic devices) and interfering with historic artworks in unique ways that leave deceptive hints of the original intact.

Julie Cockburn and Samin Ahmadzadeh use photographic weaving and embroidery techniques to intervene with personal family archives or found images, presented alongside collection items or as a large scale wall-based installation.

James E Smith and Jasleen Kaur have both overturned traditional ideas around figurative sculpture. Smith documents an uncomfortable and highly intimate relationship between artist and sitter through film and 3D printing, whereas Kaur has cast a trio of busts in hand-marbled plastic, drawing on parallels between Indian devotional sculpture and traditional western busts.

Antony Micallef distorts his own image to the extreme by manipulating and pushing thickly applied impasto paint on the canvas surface. The result is a collection of fleshy, sculptural and beautifully grotesque self-portraits of textural peaks in paint.

Paul Stephenson paints directly upon 18th century paintings bought from auction, making palimpsests (something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form) which comment on way we consume imagery second-hand through the lens or a shiny screen of mobile devices.

Sasha Bowles removes all human features from Old Master paintings and replaced them with strange growths and alien forms.  Her mischievous interventions are presented within a mobile ‘museum’ based upon the Castle’s own Long Gallery, inviting the viewer into a more intimate setting to view art.

Maisie Broadhead and Annie Kevans both use portraits to draw our attention to overlooked female artists, salvaged from the archives of patriarchal art history, or how we consider the role of women in history but also in contemporary society.

Philip Gurrey samples, borrows and plays homage to painters and paintings by creating new, often grotesque visages that have been created from various elements and time periods.


Posted on 17 May 2017

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