|The Pale Nephew, oil on copper, 25 x18cm|
© the artist, courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London and New York.
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
Flowers Gallery Cork St
An annual treat is Flowers' end-of-year exhibition in which a group of artists is invited to submit work - in any medium - not exceeding the dimensions of 9 x 7 inches. Eminent figures as well as established and emerging artists in the British art world are shown, alongside selected recent graduates.
Tai Shan Schlierenberg's The Pale Nephew is on the left.The artist says about the medium he uses:
"I really love the yumminess of paint, I love manipulating and seeing what it can do and the accidents that occur. It often helps a painting to have a medium like that that can suggest things that I would have never imagined or I could never have thought of or done as a logical progression in my technique... sometimes accidents happen and the paint oozes out of the back of the brush in a slightly different colour which suggest a different light, a different facet of the face. And the possibilities are endless. It’s a great ally to have paint, when one’s painting, it sounds obvious but it’s so malleable".
We are much more reluctant than we were in the past to believe that the painter intends to set up a narrative or to convey the character of the sitter, but here the title of the work sets us on a search for meaning. A nephew, a blood relative, leans to one side, eyes downcast, boxed in by the frame. He could be thoughtful, staring hard at something beneath him, or ill, or pale with excitement. Common sense tells us that the idea that a character or story-line is revealed in a face is problematic.
In 1989 Tai Shan Schlierenberg won the National Portrait Gallery's (John Player) Portrait Award. Part of the prize was a commission to paint the playwright John Mortimer for the Gallery's collection, The gallery holds several more of his portraits, including Lord Carrington (1994), Lord Sainsbury (2002) and Seamus Heaney (2004). In 2011 Sandy Nairne, the then Director of the NPG, produced a book on the history of the BP Portrait Ward. Its 500 portraits reflect 'the diverse methods of contemporary portrait practice, including a dazzling array of styles, from immaculate photo realism to intense expressionism'.