Figurative Art in 2020

Curated by Verity Babbs

2020 has offered us a time for self-reflection, perhaps more than any other year in the 21st Century so far. In quarantine conditions, spending more time than ever indoors, and perhaps furloughed from work, we have been looking inwardly at our lives, goals, and beliefs.…

In this collection we take a look at some of the portraiture created by our artists since the year began. These depictions of the human form and face vary in style, from the abstracted, bent figure in Mazen Khaddaj’s ‘I can’t remember when I last saw you’ to the blurred photographic form in Iliana Tosheva’s ‘Alter ego 1’.

Portraying the human form and expressing our identity is an artistic practice as old as can be, and modern day artists have harnessed the styles and movements that have come before them for inspiration. For example, we can see the influence of James Rosenquist’s flawless figures in ‘The fish of my dreams” by Vadim Kovalev, who depicts the fishing woman with a characteristic Pop Art glaze of sexualisation. In Francesco Polazzi’s ‘Still life in a portrait” we see almost Cubist levels of abstraction, intermingling the “portrait” with suggested botanical shapes.

Our self-image in 2020 seems to be highly complex, a dance between distance and intimacy, honesty and hiding. In Darren Macpherson’s ‘Redusa’, which pastiches Caravaggio’s ‘Medusa’, we see how identities are quietened by social expectations (note the formal tie and shirt, and the thick, purple paint which covers the face of the figure). In Georgia Peskett’s ‘Commuter’ the artist captures a brief encounter, one that many people go through hundreds of times a day. In an age when social media makes it faster to connect with people than ever, Peskett’s work reminds us that we are still isolated in many other ways.

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