Portrait of the Year

By Leah Bolling

Portraits are extremely unique from artist to artist. They can present us with a variety of colours, shapes, and brushstrokes- each reflective of the artist’s own style. Although they share commonality in painting people, there is endless freedom when it comes to incorporating a unique style. From pin-point-perfect, minute brush strokes to loose, louche motions. Tight, precise, extensively detailed work portrays an accurate representation of a person- almost photographed, while others are more loose and stylistic creating a more of an emotive representation of the subject matter. Sky Arts’ “Portrait Artist of the Year” TV program invites artists of all backgrounds, both amateur and professional, to compete for the title of “Portrait Artist of the Year.”

Artwork by Hun Adamoglu

Many artists from all different walks of life compete and reflect their style within their work. Three of the artists that have been featured on the show are Hun Adamoglu, Rosso Spotto, and Conor Walton, and their work can be seen in the limited-time Compton Verney exhibit.

Compton Verney is hosting a commemorative exhibition featuring 9 years of work from the show. Curated by one of the programme’s judges, Kathleen Soriano, the exhibition features over 120 works, selected from the work of more than 1,000 artists who have taken part in the competition since it was launched in 2013. All 1,000 artists, unique in style, make for a rich exhibition.

Artwork by Rosso Spotto

Before photography, a portrait was the only way to record someone’s appearance. Portraits began as a symbol of wealth- often important wealthy historical figures got their portraits made. Artists began to create portraits of their friends, family, or strangers which allowed for portraits to become more widespread.

But then something happened…what once took hours to create could now be done in literally a “flash.” Photography. However, as we can see today, portraits remain popular. They continue to be popular and common today because their history is bedded in a rich history of tradition and curiosity. Portrait artwork allows the viewer to connect because perhaps there is a strong sense of familiarity.

Artwork by Conor Walton

Pablo Picasso, one of the world’s most well-known artists, made portraits in a unique style. They were more abstract than precise, yet so captivating. Picasso’s “Portrait of Dora Maar” is a painting of Picasso’s lover in 1937. The artist’s style is strong throughout the piece, as it is made up of bold, symbolistic features. On the contrary, Australian painter Robin Eley paints hyper-realistic portraits that are deceivingly photo-like. This can be seen in Eley’s 2012 oil painting, “The Poet.”

There is something so captivating about turning a blank canvas into an image of a person whose eyes possess the power to glare back at you- hair you visualise and know the texture of- clothing so lush or so bare you can feel it. Or, on the other hand, portraits can be made in a more loose way with stylistic colours, shapes, and lines to express emotion or feeling, creating a unique connection between the piece and the viewer. Yet, all of this beauty and emotion is created with something as simple as paint.

If you liked reading Portrait of the Year, why not read Autumn Of Life

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