Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, until Sat 23 Feb
This ambitious show, curated by Michael Hill Johnston, brings together a century of paintings on the subject of portraiture from both Scottish and international artists.
Live Undead boasts impressive loans from several major collections, resulting in a diverse exploration of portraiture. This includes new work by acclaimed pop artist Alex Katz (entitled ‘Nick’), whose characteristic impassive face dominates the room. Also notable is Armen Eloyan’s ‘Untitled (No 57)’; an absorbing and meditative portrait of an unnamed soldier. Here, sparse, thick brushstrokes pick out only the starkest of details: his closed heavy eyelids and a nose which drips with paint. But it is the self portraiture which inevitably is the most arresting. David Bomberg’s brooding ‘Self Portrait’ allows us into the dark recesses of the artist’s mind, similarly ‘Self Portrait with Hairband’, by Glasgow-based Marianne Greated, is poignant and self-reflective.
While there are several standout pieces in this exhibition, what is lacking is a coherent curatorial vision, something which is always a danger when tackling such a broad subject area. Instead, we see all too brief snapshots of portraiture without a context beyond that of thematic and formalist similarities. Although stand alone pieces speak for themselves, studies by André Derain and Walter Sickert are presented without reference to the finished work. We are left to guess at what role they played in the formation of a final work. Young curatorial talent should be supported and there are gems in this exhibition that make it well worth the visit.