Saturday, 16 July 2011


Oil on canvas 1150 x 3250
BP Portrait Award 2011 exhibition
National Portrait Gallery until September 18
Daniel Fooks contacted the actor Peter Capaldi after watching A Portrait of Scotland, a documentary featuring 500 years’  history of Scottish portraiture, which Capaldi presented. He agreed to a sitting at which Fooks made notes, sketches and a series of photographs . These were the raw materials Fooks used to make the paintings during the summer of 2010.

Actors – especially Award winning ones like Capaldi – have transformative powers. What this arresting series of paintings manages to do is to capture this on canvas. Fooks makes some of the head-on, eyes-looking-straight- at-the-viewer portraits in the exhibition look a trifle heavy and cold. But there’s a trap. If you are doing 5 paintings, a less gifted artist might have frozen Capaldi's face into a series of clich├ęs: ‘angry’, ‘suspicious’, ‘pleading’ and so on.  Fooks doesn’t go there. He wants us to catch five passing moments, each of which is freighted with a kaleidoscope of feelings and bodily expressions. 

The result is almost sculptural and deeply mysterious: the hollow cheekbones, the planes and curves and angles are worth close attention . Blake Morrison - Professor at Goldsmiths College, poet, novelist, journalist - is quoted as saying ‘Portraits have to make an impact at a glance but also repay closer examination, so that even at the hundredth look they’re inexhaustible.

Fooks ratchets up the intensity by the elimination of any background which might have distracted you.  It’s you and Capaldi, alone. 

It’s heart warming to learn on the internet that Daniel Fooks, Head of Art at Godalming College, features in an Ofsted film which went in search of excellence in the teaching of the arts. The movie explores ways in which schools and colleges inspire and nurture creativity and includes Fooks’s practice of organising his teaching timetable so that he can work on his own art one day a week, at the same time as his students.

The first link below relates to Capaldi and A Portrait of Scotland

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