I am still in the process of finishing the final instalment of the "Embrace the Chaos' trilogy.... the reason it has taken longer than expected is due to me reading a book on the Chinese philosophy - Tao Te Ching! As well as watching the film Limitless and finishing a book by the awesome alternative comedian Stewart Lee. This will follow shortly and these will intertwine with the previous prose and summarise my thoughts neatly (well as neatly as possible ... calming chaos etc).
In the mean time, I am setting myself a challenge of writing a review on the National Portrait - BP Portrait of the year 2011 exhibition, in the 30 minutes I have before I have to be at some good friends wedding reception in my favourite place in London (Wilton's Music Hall)!! So here goes....
Even as I approached the National Portrait gallery from Covent Garden, I was confronted with an ultra realistic portrait of a gentleman on one of the large banners adorning the front facade. For someone whom is trying to break away from producing artwork verging in the OCD photo-realistic side, I was already a little disillusioned. As you walk into the building and through the ornate entrance hall you emerge into a bright and spacious reception room. A set of photographic portraits confront you as you enter the ground floor viewing areas (some photos of athletes preparing for the olympics and some images of Danny Boyle and one of his creatives). As we move further in to the depths of the building there are usual suspects hanging in different places than they were the last time I visited ( I am thinking here of the paintings of Prince W and Prince H, the video of D. Beckham sleeping etc).
Don't get me wrong these images are there for a reason and each have there aesthetically pleasing dimensions but I swiftly weave through the throng of tourists and dawdlers! Boom, and we're are in ! Straight away I am confronted with portrait after portrait of ultra-realistic photographic images!!! I walk and speed read the text by each... skipping over the educational backgrounds of each with added velocity as their various backgrounds have made little difference to the final images offered to us.
Ok there are a few I am taken with and I will come to those in a second and I would like to stress I am not undermining these individuals who have probably worked ridiculously hard to get these images to look so perfect. I am not, I stress not saying these aren't great works of art but what I am asking is ... Are they pandering to a high percentage of society which will marvel at the skill they see in recreating a perfect carbon copy of the sitter??? Lets draw a line here between this and what Stewart Lee stresses in his fantastic book 'How I Escaped My certain Fate - The Life and Deaths of a Stand-up Comedian', within which he describe main stream comedians (Peter Kay, Michael MaaacciinTIIIRRREeee etc) as repeating peoples lives to them for comedic effect! Is this comedy ? Yes to the masses of people who refuse to come out of their comfort zones and exist in a stepford wives parody. No to those of us that like to be challenged, have our opinions / beliefs questioned and see things from someone else's point of view.
Therein lies my cause for concern for this years competition! As someone who will enter something next year (which will NOT be photo realistic) I am dissappointed in the choices made this year. We have hundreds of portrait photography competitions in London, so rather than going through the turmoil and doggedness of doing the paintings, why don't they just submit the photographs to these??
The perfection seems to over power any meaning they were trying to convey to me. I found myself moving on to the next image without having my attention grasped! Which is the job of the artist! unless it is his or her intent to move you away from the canvas in this way (and I am sure this was not the intention of any of these artists).
The photo-realistic was a outstanding achievement before the technological revolution brought us Mac Books and digital cameras. Now it is all to easy to take a few study images and work away to your hearts content. Before this there was skill in setting up the model and background and painting from real life.
Let me just move my little soap box out of the way .... done..... So as I said there were some exceptions. The fifth painting in, is of a student wearing a blue and black stripy jumper he has made himself and holding his lucky plectrum. It is achieved through acrylic and permanent market pen by Rual G (see above). There is a something fresh about the way it works and stands out amongst the other pieces (there may be some resonance here due to my penchant for acrylic and working over with pens and inks.. but I try to be independent lol). Daniel Fook has produced some amazing images of Paul Capaldi (of In the Loop fame), these are striking and I felt the tiredness and age within Paul's numerous faces. A piece of work by Diaz Alama, a fantastic dark portrait of a young girl and a pet bird (shown above) - I loved the Munsters factor of this painting, a kind of weird Lily Munster and the raven element! - By the way I am not old enough to have been around when this was aired, it was reruns when I was 6 in the mid 80's, you cheeky punks!
The winner of this years BP Portrait Award was Wim Helden's 'Distracted' with his portrait of a young man he has been "studying" since he was 7 in dark thoughtful pose - I would be distracted if I was being followed by an artist since I was 7 !! Artistic resolve or verging on disturbing obsession? we don't know enough to pass judgement but it is an interesting piece and you do feel the subjects distraction / melancholy.
All in all, an interesting exhibition which is free, so get your limbs moving in the national Portrait direction!! Please please please NPG lets not pander to the artistic Peter Michael McIntyre audiences (nothing against these too, ultra successful but are they doing the comedy they started off with as young stand-ups? I agree with Mr Lee on this one).
Right I better get to that wedding ! It took 40 minutes to write this .... that's not too bad at all! Although, it will have cost me £20 for the taxi to Wilton's now.... sod it, I would have paid £20 for the enjoyment I have had in writing this!!!!
The cathartic musings of a CRE8IV mind, living at the EDGE of chaos.