I am absolutely fascinated by faces and portraits and I’d been looking forward to the Society of Portrait Sculptors exhibition ever since I found out about it several months ago. It’s been marked in my diary and the time blocked out so that I could go. Sadly just because the time is blocked out does not always mean that I get to go to things I want to as I am never sure what work I will have when the planned event arrives, but I was determined to visit this. Although I wasn’t really sure what I was going to see.
Obviously portraits, that’s a given.
What kind of portraits though? I had half an expectation of rows of highly detailed bronze portraits, all very realistic and somewhat staid. A very rigid idea of how a portrait should be done.
Boy was I surprised when I got there, so many different styles of portraits and in a variety of mediums. There was even one portrait made out of bicycle tyres! It was a really pleasant surprise.
As with most exhibitions I go to see different sculptures spoke to me for different reasons, some just resonated, I liked them even if I wasn’t sure why, others I could see the skill in them but they just didn’t float my boat in the same way.
‘Baby Silver’ by Kyung Hwan (Kay) Woo just made me smile, I include it here for no other reason than that, although I do think its a very good reason.
I was quite surprised to see such a different portrait as ‘Eve yawning’ by David Gunther, I am not sure what style you would say it was, abstract springs to mind but I’m not so convinced that is right. I was really pleased to see it, something a bit different, both challenging to the viewer and very intriguing. You could tell it was a head but not whether it was male or female, only the title gave that away. I love the fact that the sculpture feels so alive, and I especially like the way the hair has been done. I think it would be an interesting style to try out. Actually what would be really interesting would be to see the sitter and see if the sculpture captured the essence of them.
The two carved figures by Guy Reid, ‘Philip Pullman’ and ‘Dame Jacqueline Wilson’ were the highlight of the exhibition for me (‘Dame Jacqueline Wilson’ was the winner of the Society’s prize). I have followed his work for quite a while after finding out about him in Woodcarving magazine several years ago. I have admired his sculptures on the internet but never managed to see any of them ‘in the flesh’, they were very very beautiful. It was difficult to remember that they were carved in wood, I can’t tell you how pleased I was to find some carved wood pieces included. For some reason I never expected to see full body portraits, not sure why really.
‘Sarah’ by Stephen Heckling is another that really caught my eye. I love the flow of the hair and the looseness of the face, it looks like she might turn and look at you at any moment. Is it ok to say that I didn’t realise the portrait was of a woman until I read the title on the sheet I was given?
While I was looking closely at the portraits by Guy Reid I got talking to a lady who was also visiting the exhibition, she was telling me that she takes a portrait class. She was so very inspired by what she saw and very enthusiastic about the work she was doing. Conversations like that are such a joy.
The serene and gentle look on the face of ‘Harriet’ by Nina Cairns is what caught my eye.
I also spent a little time talking to Robert Hunt, who from his name badge is Honorary Secretary of the society. His insights were fascinating. Amongst other things he told me that Guy Reid is giving the society lecture in November, talking specifically about the use of colour on sculpture. What a lovely man to chat to.
It was great to see ‘Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard’ by Hazel Reeves, this will eventually be a larger than life size statue at Kings Cross station in London. I am following the progress of the statue on her blog (Hazel’s blog) and can’t wait to see it when its finished and in situ.
‘Alice Labant’ by Suzie Zamit was a portrait that stopped me in my tracks, more for the fact that I was convinced I knew the face from somewhere than anything else. Though I have looked the name up online since the exhibition and it is not who I thought it was, so no I don’t know her!
I found the whole exhibition to be very inspiring, such a range of work and all to a very high standard. My only regret is that I didn’t get catalogue. I was a little overwhelmed I guess and just didn’t think of it until I was on the train home!
I really enjoyed the exhibition and I will definitely seek out more portrait sculpture work in the future…..
The Society of Portrait Sculptors website is full of information, have a look if you’d like to know more.
Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .