Thursday, 2 May 2013

People and Portraits (art)

The Boy Eric Ravilious
in his Studio at Redcliffe Road
by Edward Bawden
Whilst visiting the Towner Gallery last Saturday for the new Fiona Rae exhibition on the top floor, I also took the opportunity to take a look around People and Portraits which is currently on the middle floor. I missed the opening of this exhibition in March because I was in America but there is plenty of time to view it over the summer - it's open until October!

There is an incredible spread of ages of work in People and Portraits. I think the earliest is from the 15th century and the most recent is only a couple of years old. The majority of works are paintings but there is also a smattering of drawings, a few photographs, a sculpture and an assemblage piece. I noticed that several of the paintings were acquired during the 1970s through bequests, especially from Lucy Carrington Wertheim and Irene Law.

Unfortunately, most of the earliest paintings are quite dark and, as they are the closest to the door, my initial impression of the exhibition was that it was going to be rather gloomy. I don't remember any of the sitters having been painted smiling! A few works caught my eye, but these were primarily the three-dimensional ones and a fairly recent painting. The painting is Silk Cut II, painted by Elizabeth Magill in 1990. It is a large black and silver-grey oil on canvas which appears to be hanging film strips. In fact I actually walked round to look at it side on in order to convince myself that it had really been painted. There are dozens of tiny faces, one in each 'frame' and with the same people repeated as though they had been filmed. I also liked the assemblage piece Box Of Heads from 1984. This vaguely reminded me of Grace Powell's work downstairs in the East Sussex Open. Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco created several polychromed wood heads as studies of character and personality which she later used as inspiration for her larger sculptures. Finally, although I had seen it early on but then went back to it, my favourite piece is one of the older works. The Veiled Lady is a marble bust by Giovanni Battista Lombardi from 1869. I love the beautifully delicate veil which, like with the Magill painting, is one thing but appears to be another. It is the same marble as the Lady's head but at a glance, could be gauzy fabric hung over the stone.

Towner Gallery, 23rd Mar to 6th Oct, Tue-Sun, 10:00-18:00.
Bank Holiday Mondays, 10:00-18:00.
Free admission.

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