Congregation (after Bernini), 2010, 7 elements, acrylic & varnish on brown paper, polyurethane. Dimensions variable.
LONDON.- Rupert Shrive will give new meaning to the word ‘portrait’ at his show at Morton Metropolis, London’s most talked about gallery in the West End. In an insightful interview with Michael Peppiatt, biographer of Francis Bacon and author of a forthcoming book on Alberto Giacometti, the art historian describes the works as “Very tender, sensitive things, as if you’re peeling back the skin of appearance to show the strangeness of a human face and the head beneath.” But it is not portraiture as we know it.
There are two parts to this exhibition. In the first, the artist expresses his interest in extending the life of a two dimensional painting. A classically trained artist, Shrive takes his great passion for portraiture to “another place, another level – to find another lease for it” which he does by crushing up a finished portrait, literally. Sometimes things go wrong, but very often he creates in a series of movements a new image which “just seems to assert itself.” In this process, Shrive takes care to preserve the features: he wants to be able to see the eyes, and he wants to make an image that the spectator has to walk around.
Shrive’s works are very contemporary in feel, and yet El Greco is the artist whose work is most in his mind when he creates the crushed paintings: he wants to reproduce the knack El Greco has to “catch your eye as you walk past, they’re flickering flames of composition that take your eye up, heavenwards”.
The second part of the exhibition was kick-started at the last Venice Biennale where Shrive was inspired by the work of Robert Rauschenberg, who had composed structures on the wall from things he had picked up in a junk yard. Shrive’s artistic response to this was to re-configure portraits that he had not turned into one of the crushed paintings and which lay around his studio. Instead of throwing them out, he started playing around and reassembling them until he found a harmony between the parts, “where they lock together”.