On Portraiture… is a series of works that explore ideas around the topic of portraiture and provide a quick and non-exhaustive round-up of its evolution in art, from the traditional oil painting to the recent possibilities of representation and self-representation that digital art affords now.

This painting titled Iris by Rosalind Stoddart was made during her studies at Camberwell Art School and won a prize for Portraiture at the Mall Gallery. This work was chosen to start On Portraiture… as it is an exemplar of an oil painting portrait. The artist skills in paint manipulation, coupled with a precise and well-chosen composition brings an emotive quality to the image.

The theme moves on to the self-portrait. Made by Chris. Dugrenier, Torn is a failed oil painting turned mixed media collage that captures a certain quality of a person. This work also shows the expressive possibilities that collage and mixed-media affords artists. There is a move away from likeness toward a freer and expressive representation.

In Blue Print, Adrian Baynes (an architect by trade) applies architectural drawing conventions of elevation, plan views, dimensions, annotations to draw/map a portrait of himself. At closer look, this self-portrait attempts to provide information beyond the traditional; from multi-angle views to inner thoughts.

This is Dora Maar by Adrian Baynes. Commissioned by the Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester as part of the Art & Architecture Exhibition 2013, Adrian took the famous Dora Maar portrait by Pablo Picasso (1936) and converted it using a Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawing programme. All the lines have been subtly modified to become true arcs & vectors. By reconstructing the portrait as a CAD drawing, he questions whether a technical drawing can be viewed as art.

Specifically created for this exhibition, Chris. Dugrenier Guess Who? IRL vs URL plays with the game of the same name and adapts it to present a new type of portraiture: the avatars or icons that we choose as our online identities. It is interesting to see what people choose to represent themselves on digital platforms. From a cartoon version of themselves or a close up of a physical feature, to a cover album, or even to more abstract forms, the choice is infinite. Representation of the self are entering a new wealth of possibilities…

Last for our On Portaiture… Series is a photographic work by Korean Artist Yun Kim. The Three Universals is a work of collected images from www.thispersondoesnotexist.com which generates unlimited ‘human beings’ by GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) program, one of AI programs. The program collects human images that exist online, maps them and recreates look-alike human faces. Yun Kim explains: “The three of them are forced to remain as ‘they’ erasing ‘me’ or ‘you’ and creating a new community”.

Portraiture enters a very fluid moment. The technology is such that it is now impossible to see the difference between those GAN faces and a digital image of a real person. And since, we choose an alien, a squirrel or a dessert as our online profile image, maybe oil paintings can become the truest form of Portraiture…