I never cease to be inspired by modern day representationalists. For me, a portrait that captures their sitter, and often occurs through great precision and accuracy, cannot be bettered. A landscape and a still life may speak of a desirable lifestyle, and may symbolise life in nature, or death to come, but a portrait is of life, and can bring an outline of a figure to life. As author Charles Juliet said about philanthropist Giacometti, ‘For Giacometti, reality meant, above all, fellow man. “One thing alone interests man” Pascal stated, “and that is man.” This is why we are continually fascinated by how an artist represents his fellow man. And why each year the National Portrait Gallery welcomes the best of those artists.
This exhibition is a must-see. Whether you care a little or a lot about art, and whether you know a little or a lot I can almost, not so foolishly, guarantee you will enjoy it. It speaks into the truth that seeing art first hand is always worth the journey. If you were to simply browse the website, you would pass many of the entries without pausing - they are that good.
This is the bittersweet beauty in super-realism. You need to be astounded when you can see on close inspection that these are not just nicely composed and well-lit photographs. You need to calculate the correspondence between a brushstroke and an image so alive. To begin to conclude how artists are creating the perfect balance between expression and imitation. This is beautiful art. It is not restricted; it is free to fill the outlines of a silhouette with the style of its creator. And yet it reveals the style of the sitter’s creator – God’s masterpiece.
More and more, artists are making every face into a masterpiece, into art. Individuality is being recognised and praised in art. Every emotion, state, shape and race is being shown to be beautiful and worthy of documentation. It is exemplified in the range of subjects. This exhibition repeatedly speaks of racial, cultural and sexual identity. Though above all it speaks of art that is accessible but not basic.
BP Portrait Award 2009 is at the National Portrait Gallery until September 20