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Open Locket: Portrait Of An Artist At The Laing Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

Updated: Sep 24


Portrait Of A Progressive Woman by Richard Carline


Radiating a premier flush and astounding technical skill from 85 oil paintings, drawings and prints, Portrait Of An Artist, at the Laing Art Gallery Newcastle, is one classy act, uniting with exhibition organisers, publishers and fine art dealers Liss Llewellyn once again. And although impossible not to marvel at the sensations on display, this major survey of 20th century British portraiture is persistently about the person producing the canvas, their tools, perhaps, but more their mind, body and spirit.


Sectioned into five areas of study, The Artist’s Entourage ponders over people's fascination with people. Family and friends, models and muses, all agreeing to be immortalised in paint, with the control securely in the creator’s hands, portraying their curious topic as they desired. Surmising the nature of many artists is to seek the truth, it proved unfeasible and near impossible to hide their authentic feelings about the subject and relationship.


Clothes worn or discarded, there is a vulnerability in allowing oneself to be projected by another. However, there is no concern of exposure in Cecile on the Sofa by Leon Underwood. Naked and daring, Cecile lounges across the Aztec print sofa with the most fascinatingly realistic, inky coloured drape covering a small fragment of her skin. We may assume the relationship between specialist and subject was sexual, but there is no firm evidence making the work mysteriously tantalizing.


Portrait of Winifred Knights: Colin Gill


Allegories of Creation poses the view that, like God, the artist is creator, able to sculpt the world as they see fit; this is their vision manifesting as they possess almighty authority. A piece stood solo projects human sadness, and, after reading the text, it becomes clear why. My Pain Beneath Your Sheltering Hand belongs to Charles Sims. Blurred edges of reds and oranges form a mist. Man consulting a higher power for enlightenment describe a tormented mind that tragically took his own life only mere weeks after completion; a bitter moment.


When a musician remixes a pal's track or any inventor altering a peer's work, it comes with a certain amount of pressure. Does it do the original justice? Will they like it? Value it? Treasure it? In the area Artist By Artists, requesting a colleague as a model made the painter's job more carefree, moulding someone who understood each side of the pairing and captured by a 'person about town' was solid proof you were inside a valid artistic circle.


Colin Gill's Portrait of Winifred Knights exudes respect and admiration. Gill won the Rome Scholarship in Decorative Painting in 1921, and Knights followed suit, awarded this renowned accolade one year later. In Portrait Of A Progressive Woman by Richard Caline, female confidence drips from the canvas through her outfit choice, pose and facial expression, cigarette in hand, relaxed.

Me: Henry Arthur Riley


Leading on to Self-Portraits, a long-standing tradition where honest depictions are common practice. However, there is a distinct lack of elderly representations. A street art, punky number arrives in the aptly titled Me by Henry Arthur Riley. Against a backdrop of creamy anti-gas coats, Henry's face is obscured by his Air Raid Precautions uniform; This could pass as a modern political poster slapped on a crumbling city wall, where an innocent expression on has hidden connotations.


Lastly, The Artists Studio goes from the extremes of affluent, airy spaces to cramped kitchens and bedrooms, all legitimate and the birthplace of masterpieces. The fiery, lingering sunset that only the crispness of Winter can bring is detected in Snowfall In The Suburbs - A View From The Artist's House from Harry Bush as he drew what the eyes could see from his window at Merton Park. Possibly the most accurate snow ever painted, the crackle of the fire and whistling of the kettle can not be far from earshot.


Snowfall In The Suburbs - A View From The Artist's House from Harry Bush


An arrangement of art with the utmost professional prowess, often gazing at hangings on a wall, grasping the meaning, without, sometimes, considering the person behind the easel, let alone going in deep. Enter the state of mind of these gifted folk with intimacy and intelligence, upheld with the standard of care that the Laing applies at all times.


Article By Beverley Knight

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