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Intimate Portraits

Saturday 2 March until Sunday 26 May 2002

Intimate Portraits is an exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints that explore the less public side of portraiture. The artists included have all made portraits from people in their immediate circle - family, friends, fellow artists. The six artists in the exhibition - Andrew Daly and Mary Moore from Perth, Archibald Prize winner Janet Dawson, Guy Stuart, Kevin Lincoln and Salvatore Zofrea - are all fine painters, whose deep engagement with their sitters is expressed in their portraits.

Angela Belgiorno-Zegna, 2001 by Salvatore Zofrea
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Angela Belgiorno-Zegna, 2001 by Salvatore Zofrea

Intimate Portraits is devoted to Australian artists who have made this territory their own. The painters in this exhibition are linked by the way in which their art emerges from an intimate relationship with each of their sitters. In these portraits, the identity of each sitter - as embodied in a name or a life story or a CV - does not matter; what matters is the relationship with the artist.

True portraits

Henri Matisse, perhaps the purest painter of the twentieth century, wrote in his 1954 essay on portraiture, 'True portraits, that is to say those in which the features as well as the feelings seem to come from the model, are rather rare'.

Of course, Matisse's definition of truth in portraiture is a singular view and characteristic of the artist's philosophy, yet his observation on portraiture in France in the twentieth century could also be made of portraiture in Australia at the beginning of the 21st century - true portraits are rather rare. Perhaps, though, it is a question of how rarely we see true portraits, rather than how infrequently they are made. In Australia we are exposed regularly to only a small fraction of the vast field of portrait practice. The Archibald and Moran Prize exhibitions continue to be the most conspicuous portrait salons in Australia, yet they generally attract a type of portraiture that hardly fits the Matissean definition of true portraiture. Furthermore, the commissioned portrait - the portrait in which artist and subject have been brought together in a temporary or commercial relationship - is customarily a portrait in which it would be inappropriate to search for either depth of feeling or intimacy.

Because feeling and memory were so central to Matisse's portraiture, it was inevitable that his portrait practice revolved around an intimate relationship with his subject. True portraiture, in his sense, is most likely to be discovered in portraits expressing a relationship between the artist and his friends or fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, lovers and long-term acquaintances.

Intimate Portraits is devoted to Australian artists who have made this territory their own. The painters in this exhibition are linked by the way in which their art emerges from an intimate relationship with each of their sitters. In these portraits, the identity of each sitter - as embodied in a name or a life story or a CV - does not matter; what matters is the relationship with the artist.

Although this exhibition is entitled Intimate Portraits it could as validly have been entitled Portraits without style. By which I mean; the pretensions of style evaporate in the relationship between the artist and the intimate.

Andrew Sayers
Director