Rarely are we able to gaze so intently upon the image of a stranger yet the spirited works, exhibited by the Society of Portrait Sculptors at FACE15, invite personal scrutiny.
Set on eye level plinths in an airy gallery, these are not the austere and intimidating heavy castings of history. They are vivacious renderings of personality and colour capturing the exploration of individuality.
Such a wide ranging and thought provoking selection of portrait sculptures defies outmoded expectations. Whilst aesthetically this is predominantly western art its subjects represent a diverse village of ethnicity.
This Annual Open Exhibition aims to encourage the perpetuation and quality of portrait sculptures with approximately a third of the sculptures exhibited shown by non-members who may offer their work for inclusion.
Each year a panel of seven society members selects approximately seventy works from hundreds of international submissions. The sculptures are initially shortlisted from photographs which are then selected for evaluation before the exhibits are curated for display.
Those awarding prizes have proved themselves to be progressive in their choices; they are not averse to the frisson of the contemporary.
Finger print indentations, the impression of tool incisions and the malleable contortions of metals are clearly visible in the textured appeal of these images. Having successful evoked the character of their subject, the sculptor must await the alchemy of the casting or firing process in pursuit of a surface finish that lies beyond their immediate influence.
Media have expanded beyond the traditions of bronze, plaster, stone and terracotta to include ceramics, ciment fondu, fibreglass resin, glass, jesmonite, steel, wax and the innovation of recycled tyres utilised to dramatic effect for Mick Davis’ silver sprayed Rodin.
Masterworks are included for which FACE15 has accessed sculptures by Émile-Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929): Head of Apollo (1900) and Krishnamurti (1927). In highlighting a number of the other sculptures on display, the society’s considered choices display a variety of aesthetic counter points.
Jim Kempton’s cast bronze of sculptor Oscar Nemon is diminutive and exquisitely rendered with pensive expression, whilst the other worldliness of Laurence Edwards’ matt finished Creek Head 3 oozes a raw subtle menace and distress; critically inspired by his son’s somersault accident.
Karin Hessenberg’s charming self portrait Floral Sunhat is enlivened by a muted palette of textiles and tousled blond hair. The refined elegance of Professor Li Xiang-qun’s smooth surfaced sculpture intensifies the conviction of dispassionate quiet of Xiao Yu whose poised bobbed head personifies the remoteness of youth.
Sounding an important note of political sensitivity is Suzie Zamit’s dignified portrayal of Amina Ali, a Nigerian school girl captured by Boko Haram in a timely and poignant reminder that the Our Girls campaign has not yet brought the children home.
FACE15 has been an exciting success with a three fold increase in attendance this year. This exhibition is set to become an increasingly important event in the art calendar reflecting nuanced shifts in the techniques of portrait sculpture as both well-known and previously unknown faces continue to fascinate.
Entry details for FACE16 will be posted in the Autumn on:
Author © Dr Melanie Veasey 2015 – 2019
All images © Dr Melanie Veasey unless otherwise attributed