Skip to main content
Menu Close
A
platform
for
contemporary
art

07 June 2003 —
20 July 2003

Portraiture: The Art of Social Commentary

Portraiture: The Art of Social Commentary, 2003, (installation view), curated by Rhoda Fowler
Martin Ball, oil on canvas
Martin Ball, Elizabeth Ellis, 2003, oil on canvas
Paul Cullen, Discovery of Oxygen, 1996 (installation view), wood, glass, plastic tubing, copper piping, submersible pumps, resin coated cardboard, courtesy of Jane Sanders Gallery
Portraiture: The Art of Social Commentary, 2003, (installation view), curated by Rhoda Fowler
Gavin Hurley, After Cook, 2003, oil on hessian, courtesy of Anna Bibby Gallery
Gavin Hurley, Unidentified Man II, 2002, oil on hessian, on loan from a private collection
Portraiture: The Art of Social Commentary, 2003, (installation view), curated by Rhoda Fowler
Séraphine Pick, Monkey, 2002, oil on canvas
Séraphine Pick, Rabbit, 2002, oil on canvas, courtesy of the Hamish McKay Gallery
Zarahn Southon, Mother and Child, 2003, oil on canvas, courtesy of Milford Gallery
Fiona Pardington, Whalers Scrimshaw Powder Horn, 2002, photography, courtesy of Jensen Gallery
Portraiture: The Art of Social Commentary, 2003, (installation view), curated by Rhoda Fowler
Francis Upritchard, Untitled, 2003, fibreglass, resin, fake hair and dental teeth, courtesy of a private collection
Reuben Paterson, A Suicide Daydream - I think I
Portraiture: The Art of Social Commentary, 2003, (installation view), curated by Rhoda Fowler
Haruhiko Sameshima, Mall Scene (Burger King and mural) - Henderson, Auckland, 2001, black and white silver gelatin print, courtesy of the artist
Haruhiko Sameshima, Mall Scene (escalator and punga) - Henderson, Auckland, 2001, black and white silver gelatin print, courtesy of the artist
Peter Stichbury, oil on canvas
Peter Stichbury, oil on canvas
Peter Stichbury, Charity, 2001, oil on canvas, courtesy of Starkwhite and the colection of Anne Davidson
Portraiture: The Art of Social Commentary, 2003, (installation view), curated by Rhoda Fowler
Gregor Kregar, Steel Life with Fish, 2002, glass, steel
Gregor Kregar, 2003, glass
Gregor Kregar, 2003, glass
Gregor Kregar, Ross, 2003, glass, courtesy of the artist and the Sarjeant Gallery
Ava Seymour, Gluttony, from the series Seven Deadly Sins, 2003, photocollage, courtesy of Peter McLeavey Gallery
Ava Seymour, Sloth, from the series Seven Deadly Sins, 2003, photocollage, courtesy of Peter McLeavey Gallery
Hye Rim Lee, Bunny Boom, 2002 (installation view), vinyl, pins, computer, sensor alarm, amplifiers/speakers, courtesy of Starkwhite
Lisa Murphy, Kiss I, 2003, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist
Lisa Murphy, Kiss II, 2003, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist
Simon Ingram, Anagram Self Portraits, 2003 (installation view), silk screened flex-enamel on high-gloss enamel on linen, courtesy of the artist
Lisa Reihana, Native Portraits n19897, 1998, still from moving image
Lisa Reihana, Native Portraits n19897, 1998, still from moving image
Patrick Reynolds, The Elsinor Sessions, 2003 (installation view), black and white photography, courtesy of the artist
Liz Maw, Goodnight Sweet Princess, 2000, oil on hardboard, courtesy of Ivan Anthony Gallery
Roger Mortimer, Cistern Madonna, 2002 (detail), ceramic, courtesy of Ivan Anthony Gallery
Roger Mortimer, Cistern Madonna, 2002 (installation view), ceramic, courtesy of Ivan Anthony Gallery

/

Portraiture has a ‘grand’ tradition; one that goes back to the very first attempts to represent oneself in relation to the world, and graphically illustrate a sense of belonging and identity. The genre and its vocabulary has developed significantly since the first scratchings into cave walls. By the 20th century it had become closely identified with representations of aristocracy, the wealthy and renditions of political and historical luminaries.

However there is always a development or transformation of any language over time, and merely because portraiture became such a well rehearsed science by no means ensured that it could not or should not be further developed or mutated. Richard Brilliant in his exploration of the genre embraced the broad potentials for portraiture by defining the desire to make portraits as “a response to the natural human tendency to think about oneself, of oneself in relation to others, and others in apparent relation to themselves and to others. ‘To put a face on the world’ catches the essence of ordinary behaviour in the social context.”[1] 

This is the key to understanding some seemingly radical shifts in some contemporary artistic practice and especially in the genre that is portraiture. Some of these personify a move away from direct mimetic representations of the individual and toward a realm which is deliberately generic.

This is not an unconscious desire to undermine the importance of commissioned portraiture, but a pragmatic one to see where the practice of portraiture is today in New Zealand, by New Zealand artists.

The term portraiture is used as a conduit through which the combination of the established and well understood language of portraiture is mingled with the all important desire to be socially responsive and have contemporary relevance.

[1] Richard Brilliant. Portraiture, 1997. Reaktion Books, London, p. 14

Download

'Portraiture: the art of social commentary' exhibition card, 2003

Press

Facing up to portrait show, Eastern Courier, 25-06-2003