Friday, 11 March 2011

What is our cultural Identity?

The main question asked on the National Portraits guided tour exploring 'cultural identity' by Liz Rideal.
What I like about these meetings at the Gallery is that every curator and guide has a different take on the themes being explored, and their own view of the portraits. We were took on a whirlwind blitz of over 12 portraits in the gallery from the 16c to contemporary photograph portraits. Exploring and questioning what it means to be 'British', from the sitters to the artists.

Starting off in the Eighteen by Twelve Print exhibition, looking at black and white portraits from M.I.A to the Princes William and Harry, gave an idea at the vast range of famous sitters housed in this exhibit. When considering the sitters Tracey Emin and the two Princes and what we could value to be true British actually when delving into their heritage reveals mixed nationalities in their backgrounds. So who is a true Brit?

Moving onto the Michael Landy sketch portraits supports the statement that most artists who study in London, aim to make work designed to stay in London, via varying shifting populations.

Looking at one of my favourite pieces in the Gallery; portrait of Zaha Hadid by Michael Craig- Martin, comprised via an LCD monitor/ computer with integrated software. It cunningly changes colour whilst you watch this portrait, cleverly and subtly done, made me believe that my sight was deteriorating. Asking whether line and colour can effect personality, as it is believed that Hadid's personalty is of a bright, colourful and vibrant nature, so then this portrait's style has represented her character perfectly:

Looking back at non British artists in the Gallery, it is funny to then come across German artist; Hanz Holbein's massive portrait of one of Britain's most famous iconic figures; Henry VIII. Questioning is this a British portrait?

Liz Rideal further questioned when thinking about our multicultural society, "How do we arrive?" Sometimes not war, or extradition makes us move, but merely population shifts-travelling etc.
Which led the group to the final portrait that is causing excitement and hype for the fact that this portrait goes against the Galleries main criteria for housing its works. This is of course the portrait by Benjamin Robert Haydon of Napoleon Bonaparte with Duke of Wellington (companion portrait)alongside, some calling this the 'struggling heroes'.

The galleries criteria is based on that the artist/sitter must have been a resident in the UK or have given something to the British society they live in. Of course, we know, Napoleon did neither!

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