Exhibitions – Research

Going to see exhibitions is a fantastic way to help develop the core of any art or photography project. Living in Brighton we have some fantastic galleries, exhibitions and once a year we host the Biannual Photo fringe. For example, It was through one of the exhibitions at the Phoenix gallery last year that really got me interested in the photobook world. With London on my doorstep, I decided to go to The National Portrait Gallery.


The National Portrait Gallery, London 


Paris Bordone (1500-1571)

Portrait of young women circa 1545 – Oil on Canvas.


Whilst I meandered through the vast collection of portraits at The National Portrait Gallery I came across this portrait of a young lady taken around 1545 by Paris Bordon. One of the main reasons for my stopping and acknowledging this painting was for the sideways gaze of the subject.

This is something that I tend to pay special attention to when I am taking portraits. I wonder ho how this gaze of my subjects impacts the viewer. I remember reading an article once on advertising techniques, apparently more magazines are sold when the subject on the front cover of the magazine are gazing directly into the camera. There is also a confrontational element to this more direct gaze.

Paris Bordon’s portrait of the young lady was probably made to hang alongside a painting of a young man. Such a companion portrait would explain the sidelong glance. The light falling from the right, very unusual for Borden’s work, is a further indication. The lady’s left hand may conceal an object such as a miniature book, a scent bottle or a locket.

Salvator Rosa – 1615-1673

Philosophy, about 1645


This painting influenced me for the subjects matters facial expression. Wearing a scholar’s cap and gown, the philosopher scrutinizes the viewer. His stern expression corresponds with the Latin inscription on the stone tablet: ‘Be silent unless what you have to say is better than silence.’ Rosa was keenly interested in Stoic philosophy and used his own facial features for this characterization.

Photo Publishers Market 2016


The reason I wanted to attend this exhibition is because I plan to produce a photo-book for my final exhibition, going to see the book publishers market allowed for me to see how other artists were presenting their work. One of the key aspects of which I found interesting was how some of the books on display were rough and ready – This allowed for the viewers to see the story unfold. It was at this exhibition where I got the idea for my own books. Some of the entries into this exhibition showed me how the type of binding really does affect how the book is to be read. it was useful to be able to hold and touch the books.

7th April 2017

From Selfie To Self Expression – The Saatchi Gallery



Going to this exhibition not only provided me with useful research for my final major project in terms of how I want my art to be displayed but also it provided me with some meaty information for my dissertation.

On the 31st of March 2017, The Saatchi Gallery launched the first major Selfie Exhibition[1]. The Saatchi Gallery have teamed up with the mobile technology group Huawei and together they plan to ‘explore the importance of the Selfie as an Art form’[2], by commissioning 10 young British photographers to make their own creative contributions.

The idea of comparing a masterpiece of Van Gogh to a selfie of Kim Kardashian has riled many critics within the art world, including Columnist of current affairs magazine Andrew Doyle. Whilst Doyle urges Saatchi not to hang ‘drunken selfies next to a Velázquez’[3], Other critics such as Stephen Marshe of Esquire Magazine, have been more concerned with the relationship between The Saatchi Gallery and the technology giants Huawei. It would appear that there could be reasons to believe that this exhibition is just a ‘mere a publicity stunt used for self-promotion’, a way of getting a younger audience into the gallery and at the same time an opportunity for Huwei to sell their latest smartphone.

Even If this is the case, is publicity a bad thing?, keeping in mind that it was Andy Warhol that said ‘Good business is the best art.’[4] But maybe what is more of a concern and what seems to be leaving many critics and writers ‘riled’ is this idea of making money at the expense of degrading the notion of an artist, by hanging a masterpiece next to a ‘drunken selfie’, is The Saatchi Gallery just adding to the notion of this ‘degradation of craftsmanship in favour of conceptualism’? [5]

However, regardless as to whether this is a publicity stunt or not, this exhibition does highlight just how mobile phone technology is changing how the public’s view and make art.

Mobile phone technology has now caught up with the still camera, giving rise to the selfie as a dominant form, so much so that it has led Marshe from Esquire Magazine to acknowledge that the selfie is so dominant that it is now shaping how technology is made.

But is it art? It is a question that lingers over contemporary art in general and according to Doyle, none of the public seems qualified enough to answer which could explain why not many have felt comfortable enough to question the validity of The Saatchi Gallery Selfie Exhibition.[6] If the Selfie is art then why would chief executive of the gallery Nigel Hurst feel the need to justify this launch through a press release statement, as if he wasn’t too sure himself?


Rembrandt – Self Portrait

One of the key aspects of this exhibition which you will notice, and it is pretty hard not to notice is just how much emphasis is put on the smartphone. The sponsors really are trying to sell their phones at this exhibition. The sheer abundance of technology to play with made it feel like a glorified mobile phone shop that you will find on the high street. The curators also displayed some of the great masterpieces on fake giant smartphones to make it seem as if the artists were using Instagram to publish their work.


Van Gogh – Self Portrait


Interestingly many of the art on display were not your typical selfies that you tend to see but rather they are self-portraits. Before this exhibition I thought that a selfies athletic was usually shot at arms length away, had dodgy angles and showed the smartphone in shot, however many of them were what I would consider being  self-portraits, that being that they were carefully constructed pieces with no mobile phone is sight, such of those of Tracey Emin.



Velazquez – Self Portrait

When I saw this masterpiece above, I thought to myself – How would Velazquez feel about having this piece transformed onto a giant tablet? I also wondered if these artists were still alive today would they be using smartphones as their choice in apparatus. This Saatchi exhibition feels like they are pushing the envelope in terms of trying to define a new type of genre. If the smartphone is our new paintbrush does that mean that we are now living in a time when everyone is a potentialartist?


The self portrait above shows the artists with his medium of choice, the paintbrush – This in todays culture I guess would represent the mobile phone in shot, the type of selfie that we are most likely to see today. Some critics believe that the smartphone is as important to the world of art as the mirror was to painters – Which led to new ways of understanding the self through art.


Tracey Emmin – Self Portrait



Huawei, The Mobile technology group allowed visitors to sample their new smartphone device.


[1] ‘About Selfie – Selfie to Self-Expression’ <http://www.saatchigallery.com/selfie/about.php&gt; [accessed 13 February 2017].

[2] ‘About Selfie – Selfie to Self-Expression’ <http://www.saatchigallery.com/selfie/about.php&gt; [accessed 13 February 2017].

[3] ‘Sorry, Saatchi, but Selfies Aren’t Art’ <http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/sorry-saatchi-but-selfies-arent-art/19390&gt; [accessed 14 February 2017].

[4] 1611530626, ‘The Art of Business – ART + Marketing’, ART + Marketing, 2016 <https://artplusmarketing.com/being-good-in-business-is-the-most-fascinating-kind-of-art-f637a1700bdc#.dfu7qfz0x&gt; [accessed 29 March 2017].

[5] ‘Sorry, Saatchi, but Selfies Aren’t Art’.

[6] I don’t suppose it’s a question many of us feel qualified to answer. So when the Saatchi Gallery this week its plans for an exhibition of ‘selfies’, few felt comfortable enough to question the validity of the project. Contemporary art is too nebulous, too esoteric; to ask Patsy’s question risks exposing one’s own philistinism‘Sorry, Saatchi, but Selfies Aren’t Art’.


– I left this exhibition with some new ideas on how I can present my people of Brighton project. I really enjoyed the interactiveness of this exhibition, where the viewers were able to play and touch the pieces.

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