The notion of portraiture traditionally makes us think of solemn faces, straightened posture and a severe sense of formality, but such a notion is bound to short change us of the boundless possibilities that portraiture offers. Whilst a person may lay centre to the painting, it is rare for them to be uninterrupted. What is more likely, and what this year’s exhibition especially proves, is the vibrancy and explosive personality that portraits more commonly pursue. The details in the background, the chips on shoulders, pets, trinkets and paperwork that possibly could have been tidied away, add an unprecedented richness to portraits.
Though it is easy to miss such details when the central faces are so alluring and expressive, it’s certainly worth taking a moment to look away from the charming guise of the sitter and towards the location and objects that surround them.
Whether it be jewellery, food or clothing our artists featured in this year’s annual exhibition have really gone to town on the details. Below are a selection of excerpts from some larger pieces. One of the marvels about the details in portraiture is that there are frequently so many of them and, when separated from the larger piece, they often appear to exist within a world of their own and invite their very own stories and memories.
Words by Ellen Lachs
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