On a recent trip to Winchester I was lucky enough to notice a portrait exhibition taking place in the main library and discovery center. The space on the second floor is a full-time gallery showcasing work across a variety of mediums like painting, photography, sculptures, and installations. Currently running is a city wide exhibition called Portraits 14, a look at the art of portraiture across a variety of mediums. Within the discovery center where I was visiting there was a collection of paintings from members of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, a wide variety of styles and techniques where showcased each looking at portraits.
The paintings included in this exhibition are from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters members own collections, giving an insight to the inspiration and styles favoured by these renowned members. By using images from the artists own collections the exhibition gives a wonderful insight into the artists own mindset on a more personal level that doesn’t revolve around their commercial work and can simple be what they enjoy aesthetically.
The wide selection of images on show within the exhibition really draws the viewer around the room, both in awe of the skill but also from a more critically understanding. I was able, when looking at the works in front of me consider them carefully within my mindset as a photographer, especially within the teachings of this course (People and Place). Each image I focused upon I considered its composition, tones and feeling, while also ensuring I read the information accompany the work I formed an opinion on the piece overall, my basis being by technically appreciation and understanding from an artistic point of view and my personally aseptically opinion. Each image was commented on be it positively or negatively and I further considered the reasons why.
Firstly this painting, by Andrew James in an oil on canvas of his father, the abstract nature of brush strokes and colour palette give this painting a quality appreciated from further away. The varied colours in the skin tones becoming a more acceptable tone give this image a fascinating quality from a distance and a more inquisitive from closer up. The yellows, greens, and blues in the skin tone alone make the viewer question the success of this image but remaining abstract throughout the images create a wonderfully textured portrait that emits character and interest.
This second painting, my favourite of the exhibition is by Jeff Stultiens RP, called ‘Winter Budapest’ is a wonderfully large painting in pride of place at the center of the wall. The beautifully balanced composition immediately made me consider the course of People and Place with this stunningly delicate portrait showing the subject surrounded within her environment. The cool tones of the image are reflected beautiful on the subject, her hands seeming cold while her cheeks slightly red from the warmth of her hat. The balance of the image draws the viewer deep into the painting, from subject to trees and to building whose colour gives the image a contrast of colour. It wasn’t until alter I noticed the magpie sat on the branch, this small addition is an interesting element of design that aides the viewer to continually be captivated in the image. The portrait itself is beautifully soft with the eyes pulling the viewer across the image further adding to the dynamism of the composition and layers within the painting. I really love the overall feel of this painting, the stunning detail and beautiful touches of the magpie and roses held in the hand offer a story and a narrative within this one frame that leaves you asking questions, coupled with the beauty and technical qualities this image is a perfect example of a stunning portrait.
This course, along with the other two of my first year has opened my appreciation further than photography in the art world and also to that of painting, my interests being broadened have allowed for a varied understanding in both photography artistically and semiotically. This was a fascinating exhibition that further expanded my understanding and appreciation of portraits, both studio, location and photographic and painting.