About Face Symposium, July 1st 2016
Ondaatje Theatre Wing, National Portrait Gallery, London
"Artists, theorists, curators and writers investigate the representation of exposure, exploring themes such as the revealing and concealing of the self, identity, and traces of ownership. In collaboration with the University of the Arts London.
About Face is a research group at the University of the Arts, London, where artists, theorists, curators and writers address concepts of portraiture. This symposium explores representations of ‘exposure’: the revealing and concealing of self, identity and notions of ownership." Copyright, NPG, Website July 1st, 2016
During a tutorial with Mark Fairnington I mentioned that I thought the underbelly or heart of my practice came from my love of portraiture and that is where I thought my work, very broadly speaking, sat. Mark said that he believed that my work sat on the periphery and that there was a symposium he suggested I attended whose attention was defined by portraiture and what that might mean.
I attended the whole session and was delighted to hear such a wide range of discussions all within the walls of the National Portrait Gallery, the gallery I visit the most often. The various speakers came from very different backgrounds and discussion points some were talking about their own work whilst others talked about the commissioning side of portraits. It became clear that like The Resilience of Drawing, portraiture and what it may mean had many guises. There is not just the traditional posed portrait and the mediums used to convey portraiture are many and varied.
The session that I felt most engaged with, and they were all really interesting, was when Stephen Farthing, talked. Although he admitted his practice was not directly to do with portraiture he vocalised how he thought that art school today had completely disregarded portraiture, this discipline and what it might mean. He was advocating reintroducing portraiture into the curriculum. In fact I was so taken by his talk I consequently emailed him asking if he would be willing to continue the discussion. Sadly he, like most of us, leads a busy life, but I had a very polite response thanking me for my email and saying how pleased he was that I benefited from the event.
I feel that this was a really useful forum for various discussion points within my interest field and I will definitely be keeping a look out for more events and articles on the subject through this group.
16.00 Introduction Eileen Hogan, artist and Professor in Fine Art in the Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Art Graduate School, UAL
Introduction to the speakers Charlotte Hodes, artist and Professor in Fine Art at London College of Fashion, UAL.
16.10 Résumé: About Face previous symposia
16.20 Presentation 1: Facing legacies: what traces might an art work's re-presentation expose?
Jo Melvin, curator and writer, and Reader in Archives and Special Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL
16.30 Presentation 2: Marginalised Stories
Sean Lynch, artist
16.40 Presentation 3: Creating New Public Portraits
Sandy Nairne, writer and curator and Director of the National Portrait Gallery 2002-15
16.55 Presentation 4: Eight Paradigms
Professor Stephen Farthing, artist and writer
17.05 Presentation 5: Exposed: The Naked Portrait
Rab MacGibbon, Associate Curator, National Portrait Gallery
17.15 Summary: Jo Melvin
17.25 Q&A chaired by Professor Anita Taylor
Background tiled image: A.S. Byatt, Patrick Heron, 1995 Curtesy of National Portrait Gallery, London