‘Sitters who look at us and at themselves, or who seem to dissolve before our eyes’
To mark Time Unwrapped, Piano Nobile presents two exhibitions which showcase the richness of the Ruth Borchard Collection and British self-portraiture in the 20th and 21st centuries. Bringing together visual and musical arts, the programme is curated by Professor Simon Shaw-Miller, Chair of History of Art at Bristol University and author of Eye hEar: The Visual in Music, and Dr Charlotte de Mille, author on art and music, and music curator at The Courtauld Gallery.
Out of Time examines selfportraiture according to four themes emanating from the Spring programme of Time Unwrapped: memory, suspension and reflection, alternative time, and movement. Across these themes there are different approaches to the act of painting oneself: those sitters who look at us and at themselves, and those that look elsewhere and invite us to do so, even though we may not be able to follow their inward gaze. There are selves that seem to dissolve before our eyes, elusive ghosts unwilling to give themselves up for public gaze, and those that meet us frankly and unapologetically.
The works selected draw on a wide range of media and techniques, articulated in multiple ways from transparency to
thick impasto. Self-portraiture necessitates a reflective surface. Our group of images incorporating mirrors, glass, windows and doorways articulate the mechanical necessities for their making. Related to this group, images of suspended moments emphasise the transitory nature of (self-) portraiture and the incomplete vision it offers. The section on alternative time draws on concerts which explore the redefinition of time following the publication of Einstein’s theory of relativity, encompassing memory, multiplicity and psychological process. Here, Lawrence Gowing’s quest (see above) to ‘make my situation paintable’ resonates with other artists for whom being is a state of flux.