I recently visited the National Portrait Gallery and checked out this annual fare of assorted portraits. It was quite enjoyable with a reasonable amount of deviation from the photographic style which tends to dominate. Not that that isn’t admirable, just gets a little dull when we are constantly surrounded by quality photographic images.
I was less impressed by the winners I have to say, which said very little to me and hardly stood out; one of them, ‘Holly’ barely even a portrait, far closer to a classical nude.
There were two pictures which I particularly remember, and which managed to capture a great deal in terms of resonating with contemporary issues close to my and I am sure many others’ hearts.
This is an amusing image which the artist set up to spark discussion about different styles of art; the model is regarding another depiction of her which has an incredibly abstract style. The artist was born in 1932 which makes me think that he was around for much of the modernist era in Spain, his native land. He has witnessed the breadth of change in art from Picasso through to the present day and must be struck by it, and wonder that we don’t recapture some of modernisms’s finer moments more often. This painting speaks to me about how we view ourselves, and has a comical expression. I visited the gallery with my friend Julia Parr, who has participated in Spirited Bodies, and she pointed out that it clearly reminded her of what it was like to model at the event, and then look at the pictures of herself with awe and wonder.
This is my favourite picture in the exhibition and if I was in charge it would have won! It speaks to me about what Spirited Bodies aims to address, and it so very directly and succinctly sums up the portrayal of women, in relation to family, and as posed by the artist, so it is empowering and questioning, analytical simultaneously. The daughter intrigued by her Mother’s boldness, while the son is shocked, not wanting to see her nude form. The image created by the naked artist comments on society’s unrealistic expectations of women.