Our Exquisite Portraits
This wonderful exhibition, entitled Exquisite Portraits on display at the Lab Gallery, is the fruit of a project instigated by illustrator, Margaret Anne Suggs, and author, Juliette Saumande, during the period of lockdown. Inspired by a similar venture in France by artist, Nathalie Novi, when everyone was being asked to keep apart and stay at home, Margaret Anne and Juliette, reached out to fellow illustrators and writers to ask them to participate by engaging in the collaborative drawing and writing project.
The Cadavre Exquis [Exquisite Corpse] was invented in Paris in 1925 by the Surrealists, Yves Tanguy, Jacques Prévert, André Breton and Marcel Duchamp who revelled in the element of chance and the absurd in their work. It resulted in intuitive drawings in which each participant takes turns writing or drawing on a sheet of paper, folding it to conceal his or her contribution, and then passing it to the next player for a further contribution. Contemporary artists who have also engaged in this practice, include Jake and Dinos Chapman.
However, Margaret Anne Suggs and Juliette Saumande went a step further and adapted and enriched this concept by asking fellow artists to provide a picture of themselves in confinement and the images and sentences were conjoined to provide a wonderful array of diverse experiences. It is a testament to the innovation, creativity and spirit of collaboration of these artists and writers that their response was so powerful and engaging.
Notwithstanding the fact that social distancing has exerted a great price for those working in the creative field, the work produced during this unprecedented and abrupt shutdown highlights how art can unify and anchor in the midst of turbulent uncertainty. 26 illustrators and 20 writers collaborated to produce the beautiful and intricate works evident in this exhibition. It represents the essence of what creativity is about and also highlights the role of chance in art.