You Look Familiar | British Council Türkiye

You Look Familiar

Curated by Ulya Soley

The exhibition explores the power of portraiture to challenge stereotypes through the portraits from the British Council Collection.

Browse from left to right to explore the You Look Familiar exhibition.
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Frank Auerbach
Head of JYM III, 1980

Oil on board, 61 x 71.1 cm, © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
'To paint the same head over and over leads to unfamiliarity; eventually you get near the raw truth about it, just as people only blurt out the raw truth in the middle of a family quarrel.'

Frank Auerbach portrayed sitters who would come to his studio for at least two hours every evening and some mornings. He was a good friend of Lucian Freud who also had a similar relationship with his models. His disciplined approach to portrait painting brings to forth the power relationship between the artist and the sitter. Julia Yardley Mills, whose face is ambiguously portrayed with very thick and dynamic brushstrokes, was a professional model. Working with a professional model raises some questions about what it would mean for the model to be looked at, and to be paid for it. Auerbach paintings’ prices were very high and all his works in recent exhibitions were sold out with a waiting list after representing Britain at the 1986 Venice Biennale. Thus, Auerbach successfully encourages collectors to own these portraits of people who would not normally be portrayed. Auerbach puts his sitter; in this case his employee, in a power position, which again plays with the idea of who should be portrayed. In this portrait he exposes the raw truth by creating an almost abstract, unfamiliar figure and by making the invisible visible.
Lucian Freud
Girl with Roses, 1947/48

Oil on canvas, 106 X 75.6 cm, © Lucian Freud Archive, 2014. All Rights Reserved. Bridgeman Art Library
'My horror of the idyllic, and a growing awareness of the limited value of recording visually observed facts, has led me to work from people I know. Whom else can I hope to portray with any degree of profundity?'

Girl with Roses is a portrait of Lucian Freud’s wife Kitty Garman, who was the daughter of famous sculptor Jacob Epstein and Kathleen Garman, model and high-profile member of artistic circles in mid-20th century London. Kitty modelled for Freud over the course of the five years of their marriage. This one portrays Kitty with her wide eyes staring away from the artist. She comes to the fore with a bright shadow surrounding her body, which distinct her from the indefinite background. Freud was famous for working with his sitters for long hours over extended periods of time. As Martin Gayford, a long time sitter for Freud states: 'He wasn’t keen on the idealised human forms they painted. He preferred the truth; felt that real people, as they were, gave a portrait weight and density. There was a certain weightlessness in all that smoothed out human perfection. He preferred real flesh.' In this portrait, Kitty is not idealized in any way, and the title is not revealing that the artist is painting his wife. One of the most important portrait painters of the time Freud paints a very familiar face to achieve this degree of profundity, reflecting the sitter’s identity at a deeper level.
Craigie Aitchison
Portrait of Chris Ogidih, 1998

Oil on canvas, 50.8 cm x 40.6 cm, © Courtesy of the Artist / Bridgeman Art Library
'In a portrait you’re trying to get the person opposite you onto the canvas. If I could, I would trace them.'

Portrait of Chris Ogidih is challenges the idea of portraiture as an elite practice. The identity of the sitter comes to forth as a deliberate choice of portraying a person who would not traditionally be portrayed. The almost unfinished, soft, textile like painting style reflects a casualty, but the ornamented black found frame against the lively pink background of the painting is 'framing' the sitter and stating that this is definitely a portrait. The relationship and power dynamics between the sitter and the artist are interesting: although Chris Ogidihwas modelling for him, it feels as if there was a dynamic relationship between the artist and him. It feels more of an exchange rather than a relationship initiated and dominated by the artist. Ogidih is gazing at something, but not directly looking at the artist. He looks familiar, with a raised eyebrow and an endearing smile.
Michael Fullerton
Ultramarine, 2014

Screenprint on somerset newsprint, 66 x 100 cm, © The Artist
Michael Fullerton’s portraits in the form of an oil painting and a print reflect two different representations of the founder of file-sharing service Megaupload Kim Dotcom, who was charged by the United States for copyright infringement, wire fraud and money laundering worth $500 million. Fullerton travelled to New Zealand to meet the controversial figure. The artist plays with the idea of portraying an important figure, in this case a current, powerful and mysterious figure associated with online security and data ownership.

With Kim Dotcom Under House Arrest, Dotcom Mansion, Auckland 2013 (Second Version), Fullerton embraces the traditional portrait painting by depicting Kim Dotcom full length, in a jumpsuit and slippers in a field painted with a pale colour scale. Fullerton emphasizes Kim Dotcom’s imprisonment with the title, as well as his attire, which grabs the attention when placed in front of this unexpected background.

With Ultramarine, Fullerton almost turns Kim Dotcom’s face into a mask. The absence of the neck, and the lighting on the eyes creates a very different portrait of Dotcom then the full-length classical painting. The flashy, contemporary, full face comes closer to the tech start-up hero’s identity and his controversial financial involvements. Fullerton’s two portraits reflect the ability of portraiture to depict the same person in two very different ways, and subvert the viewer’s ideas of the sitter.
Michael Fullerton
Kim Dotcom Under House Arrest, Dotcom Mansion, Auckland 2013 (Second Version), 2014

Oil on linen, 200 x 105 cm, © The Artist and Carl Freedman Gallery, London
Michael Fullerton’s portraits in the form of an oil painting and a print reflect two different representations of the founder of file-sharing service Megaupload Kim Dotcom, who was charged by the United States for copyright infringement, wire fraud and money laundering worth $500 million. Fullerton travelled to New Zealand to meet the controversial figure. The artist plays with the idea of portraying an important figure, in this case a current, powerful and mysterious figure associated with online security and data ownership.

With Kim Dotcom Under House Arrest, Dotcom Mansion, Auckland 2013 (Second Version), Fullerton embraces the traditional portrait painting by depicting Kim Dotcom full length, in a jumpsuit and slippers in a field painted with a pale colour scale. Fullerton emphasizes Kim Dotcom’s imprisonment with the title, as well as his attire, which grabs the attention when placed in front of this unexpected background.

With Ultramarine, Fullerton almost turns Kim Dotcom’s face into a mask. The absence of the neck, and the lighting on the eyes creates a very different portrait of Dotcom then the full-length classical painting. The flashy, contemporary, full face comes closer to the tech start-up hero’s identity and his controversial financial involvements. Fullerton’s two portraits reflect the ability of portraiture to depict the same person in two very different ways, and subvert the viewer’s ideas of the sitter.
Jake and Dinos Chapman
Painting for Pleasure and Profit: a Piece of Site-specific Performance-based Body Art in Oil, Canvas and Wood (Dimensions Variable), 2006

Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 25.3 cm, © Jake and Dinos Chapman. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2015.
Jake and Dinos Chapman built a painter’s studio at the Frieze Contemporary Art Fair in 2006, and portrayed anyone who paid the fee for five days. They made portraits in half an hour turnover time. The studio installation and the performance, similar to sketch portrait stands available in touristic areas, is a form of the commissioned portrait, an obsolete form of artistic production. By questioning the role of the artist in this commercialized contemporary art world and its tight relationship with global capitalism, the Chapman Brothers created a scenario where the collector needs to queue, pose for half an hour and pay for a portrait which has no sense of accuracy, reversing the power relationship between the artist and the sitter, present in the traditional portraits of the patrons. The Chapmans’ ‘portraits’ are perhaps inevitably more an excuse for self-expression and the free reign of their perverse imagination than a true representation of the sitters themselves. This portrait is Andrea Rose’s, who was the Director of Visual Arts at the British Council for over twenty years.
Gary Hume
Cerith, 1998

Serigraf, 108,6 x 83,9 cm, © Sanatçının izniyle
Gary Hume’s portrait of the conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans reflects a contemporary take on the longstanding tradition of portraying artistic friendships. By using bright yellow in the background to contrast with the bright blue hair, Hume manages to create a very flat surface with a geometric feel. The features are abstracted except for the eyes, prominent eyelashes and ears. Hume offers the viewer a limited number of gestures and not enough details, and invites the viewer to make up the rest by bringing together the bits of information. This generic image with simplified forms of a public figure creates a contrast of the traditional idea of making a resembling portrait of a person of importance.
John Davies
Head of P D, 1976/80

Resin, 25.5 cm high, © John Davies, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
In the age of information, how do we position and discuss materiality? Head of P D is a reflection on the materiality of portraiture. The sculpture and its plinth refer to portraiture as an elite practice. The bust is life size, but the figure is not identified because the facial features of the sculpture are generalized and ambiguous. The gaze is hard to catch because the eyes are made and placed separate from the rest of the figure. There is a classicist sculpture essence, but the chalk grey colour and the darker circle encapsulating the eyes, the nose and the lips complicates the time frame. John Davies leaves the viewer with many questions regarding the location, age, gender and social status of the depicted person. As Nicholas Wasley states, 'He talks repeatedly of “the ordinary” as his subject matter and wanting to achieve that same focus on the human condition without resort either to extraordinary devices, or to all that realism.'
Lubaina Himid
1792, 2015

Acrylic on canvas, 45.3 x 64 cm, © The Artist and Hollybush Gardens
Interested in questioning conventional history and highlighting other histories it must incorporate, LubainaHimid portraits areof African origin as an extension of her Lost Election posters series. The portraits almost function as elaborate election posters.The title 1792 refers to the date that Toussaint L’Ouverture became the military leader for the Haitian uprising. The portrayed figure staring elsewhere with a cold and suspicious look is depicted with a distinctive black hat with a white feather. The pinkish paint on his face evokes a scar, and the continuation of the paint on his right shoulder is evocative of blood. His pin reads, 'vote'. 2015 depicts a black man with a contemporary look wearing a shirt with the same pink hue as the 1792 painting. The word 'vote' appears on his collar. Depicting time periods more than two centuries apart, the two portraits are similar in centralizing a familiar face and campaigning for the idea of political agency.
Lubaina Himid
2015, 2015

Acrylic on canvas, 45.3 x 64 cm, © The Artist and Hollybush Gardens
Interested in questioning conventional history and highlighting other histories it must incorporate, LubainaHimid portraits areof African origin as an extension of her Lost Election posters series. The portraits almost function as elaborate election posters.The title 1792 refers to the date that Toussaint L’Ouverture became the military leader for the Haitian uprising. The portrayed figure staring elsewhere with a cold and suspicious look is depicted with a distinctive black hat with a white feather. The pinkish paint on his face evokes a scar, and the continuation of the paint on his right shoulder is evocative of blood. His pin reads, 'vote'. 2015 depicts a black man with a contemporary look wearing a shirt with the same pink hue as the 1792 painting. The word 'vote' appears on his collar. Depicting time periods more than two centuries apart, the two portraits are similar in centralizing a familiar face and campaigning for the idea of political agency.
Richard Hamilton
Testament, 1993

Oil on cibachrome on canvas, 82 x 60 cm, © R.Hamilton. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2015.
Testament is Pop art’s prominent figure Richard Hamilton’s intervention on the photograph of the Crown Prince Naruhito of Japanand MasakaOwada after they got married. Owada’s non-aristocratic background caused a controversy at the time, becoming an important event of 1993. Hamilton, as an artist who takes his cues from the media, pop culture and everyday subject matters, worked with the photograph to print an enlarged version on a canvas and to paint on top of it. His awareness of the photograph as a consequence of global media allowed him to pick up this story and create his own version of it. The male and female dichotomy is apparent in this portrait: the Prince Naruhito is wearing a Western black and white attire standing, while Masaka Owada is in a traditional colourful outfit, which is made even more colourful by the artist’s brush strokes. Although Owada takes up a lot of space, Prince Naruhito has more presence. The space between the couple and the tense expression on their face add a realistic tone to this reflection of the merging of classes through marriage.
Madame Yevonde
Mrs. Anthony Eden as the Muse of History, 1935

Archival Pigment Transfer Print, 50.7 x 40.6 cm, © The Yevonde Portrait Archive
Madame Yevonde was an important woman photographer practicing in the beginning of the 20th century and experimenting with many different techniques and genres depicting women’s social, sexual roles and contemporary place in society. Between 1932 and 1940, she practiced colour photography until the closure of the Vivex processing plant due to the war. Mrs. Anthony Eden as the Muse of History is part of her Goddesses series, and portrays Mrs. Anthony Eden, wife of the Tory Foreign Secretary, ironically designated as the Muse of History. The surrealist iconography, the high camp mood, exaggerated expressions and artificiality of the props all serving to parody the genre of society portraiture and the incestuous nature of British aristocratic circles (Rogers, 1999). By covering the lens with a blue cellophane as well as placing a bust next to her model, Yevonde achieves a very contemporary image, a timeless and powerful portrait. In the Still Life with Bust of Venus, Yevonde ironically places a prop, which looks and functions as a high-society portrait, and another statue as to make a distinction between the two. The image reflects the portrait photography’s artificial nature, its ability to make believe. Crisis has a different tone than the two works and as Yevonde’s last work completed before the start of the war, is clearly prophetic, inviting speculation on what is represented by the figure of the Roman general wearing a gas mask, accompanied only by a bright red geranium which has lost some of its petals (Rogers, 1999). Although a still life, the positioning of the mask evokes portrait photographs of Yevonde in terms of the placement of the bust and the props. With this approach she questions the reality of the portrait photography’s attributed reality, and the distinction between fact and fiction.
Madame Yevonde
Still Life with Bust of Venus, 1938

Permanent Dye-transfer Print from Original Negative, 50.7 x 40.6 cm, © The Yevonde Portrait Archive
Madame Yevonde was an important woman photographer practicing in the beginning of the 20th century and experimenting with many different techniques and genres depicting women’s social, sexual roles and contemporary place in society. Between 1932 and 1940, she practiced colour photography until the closure of the Vivex processing plant due to the war. Mrs. Anthony Eden as the Muse of History is part of her Goddesses series, and portrays Mrs. Anthony Eden, wife of the Tory Foreign Secretary, ironically designated as the Muse of History. The surrealist iconography, the high camp mood, exaggerated expressions and artificiality of the props all serving to parody the genre of society portraiture and the incestuous nature of British aristocratic circles (Rogers, 1999). By covering the lens with a blue cellophane as well as placing a bust next to her model, Yevonde achieves a very contemporary image, a timeless and powerful portrait. In the Still Life with Bust of Venus, Yevonde ironically places a prop, which looks and functions as a high-society portrait, and another statue as to make a distinction between the two. The image reflects the portrait photography’s artificial nature, its ability to make believe. Crisis has a different tone than the two works and as Yevonde’s last work completed before the start of the war, is clearly prophetic, inviting speculation on what is represented by the figure of the Roman general wearing a gas mask, accompanied only by a bright red geranium which has lost some of its petals (Rogers, 1999). Although a still life, the positioning of the mask evokes portrait photographs of Yevonde in terms of the placement of the bust and the props. With this approach she questions the reality of the portrait photography’s attributed reality, and the distinction between fact and fiction.
Madame Yevonde
Crisis, 1939

Permanent Dye-transfer Print from Original Negative, 50.7 x 40.6 cm, © The Yevonde Portrait Archive
Madame Yevonde was an important woman photographer practicing in the beginning of the 20th century and experimenting with many different techniques and genres depicting women’s social, sexual roles and contemporary place in society. Between 1932 and 1940, she practiced colour photography until the closure of the Vivex processing plant due to the war. Mrs. Anthony Eden as the Muse of History is part of her Goddesses series, and portrays Mrs. Anthony Eden, wife of the Tory Foreign Secretary, ironically designated as the Muse of History. The surrealist iconography, the high camp mood, exaggerated expressions and artificiality of the props all serving to parody the genre of society portraiture and the incestuous nature of British aristocratic circles (Rogers, 1999). By covering the lens with a blue cellophane as well as placing a bust next to her model, Yevonde achieves a very contemporary image, a timeless and powerful portrait. In the Still Life with Bust of Venus, Yevonde ironically places a prop, which looks and functions as a high-society portrait, and another statue as to make a distinction between the two. The image reflects the portrait photography’s artificial nature, its ability to make believe. Crisis has a different tone than the two works and as Yevonde’s last work completed before the start of the war, is clearly prophetic, inviting speculation on what is represented by the figure of the Roman general wearing a gas mask, accompanied only by a bright red geranium which has lost some of its petals (Rogers, 1999). Although a still life, the positioning of the mask evokes portrait photographs of Yevonde in terms of the placement of the bust and the props. With this approach she questions the reality of the portrait photography’s attributed reality, and the distinction between fact and fiction.
Sarah Lucas
Got A Salmon On #3 1997 (1999)

Iris print on watercolor paper, 80 x 60 cm, © The Artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
In her series of self-portraits, Lucas poses in typical masculine poses with though looks that challenge gender representations. These self-portraits choreographed with metaphoric still life elements like a skull or a salmon, reflect the artist as a rough, independent, macho, sexual and determinant woman. She gazes directly at the camera in both photographs. In the Self Portrait With Skull 1996, Lucas sits with her legs wide open, with a skull on the floor in between her legs. The arrangement is a play on the similarities between the two psychoanalytic concepts: death drive and pleasure principle. Got A Salmon On #3 functions as a metaphor for female desire. In Lucas’ works self-portrait is a tool to create a strong identity through imagery, and challenge conventional gendered expectations.
Sarah Lucas
Self Portrait With Skull 1996 (1999)

Iris print on watercolor paper, 80 x 60 cm, © The Artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
In her series of self-portraits, Lucas poses in typical masculine poses with though looks that challenge gender representations. These self-portraits choreographed with metaphoric still life elements like a skull or a salmon, reflect the artist as a rough, independent, macho, sexual and determinant woman. She gazes directly at the camera in both photographs. In the Self Portrait With Skull 1996, Lucas sits with her legs wide open, with a skull on the floor in between her legs. The arrangement is a play on the similarities between the two psychoanalytic concepts: death drive and pleasure principle. Got A Salmon On #3 functions as a metaphor for female desire. In Lucas’ works self-portrait is a tool to create a strong identity through imagery, and challenge conventional gendered expectations.
Tracey Emin
Outside Myself (Monument Valley), 1994

Photograph, 65 x 81 cm, © The Artist, All Rights Reserved, DACS 2015.
The notion of artist’s self-portraits is explored by Tracey Emin in Outside Myself (Monument Valley). She is reading her handmade book about the first thirteen years of her life, Exploration of the Soul (1994). She poses in different places across America, sitting in a chair owned by her grandmother. She is posing with the book but staring at the camera with a determinant expression. In a way, she is posing with her childhood in her hands, on a chair that reads 'Thanks mom'. What does it mean to be outside one’s self in a self-portrait? Can a self-portrait be a true reflection of one with the symbolic involvement of one’s childhood? Emin raises questions about identity, sexuality and self-reflection in this photograph.
Morag Keil
Untitled (self-portrait with mobile phone), 2013

Oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm, © The Artist
Why is a mobile phone part of a self-portrait of the artist? In this painting, digital is materialized through a mobile phone, a device that is so familiar that it became almost a part of contemporary bodies. Morag Keil questions the immateriality of the digital by placing the mobile phone in her self-portrait and presenting it as part of herself. Mobile phones are gateways to many familiar faces. The social media is fuelled by the presence of face images connecting to each other through networks. Sometimes accompanied by objects or modified, self-images make a big portion of these faces. Keil, by painting a portrait of herself with a device that represents technology, blurs the lines between the physical and digital.
Kenny Macleod
Robbie Fraser, 1999

Betacamsp Video, 17 min., © The Artist
'My hope is that things are a lot more uncomfortably confused.'

Kenny Macleod expresses multiple selves and different identities through this video, by playing with the viewer’s expectations of listening to a coherent personal story. His direct gaze at the video is very similar to vlogs that became mainstream especially after YouTube became the main platform for sharing them. Although it isvisuallyfamiliar, the contradictions in the narrative are confusing. Robbie Fraser introduces himself again and again in these 100 word narrative texts, and in each short story, his job, relationship status or sexual orientation changes. The whole story is never graspable because there are discrepancies, but it draws us in, and pushes us to continue watching. As a viewer, we continuously try making sense of the whole story by bringing the pieces of information together and making assumptions. However, we continuously fail to make a coherent story out of these 100 word episodes, and our desire for personal revelation is not satisfied. The work questions the appearance/reality distinction, stereotypes, cultural sensibilities and our tendency to categorize things in order to make sense.
Chris Ofili
Untitled, 1996

Mixed media on canvas, 9 x 7 cm, © The Artist
'The only person in these paintings was me.'

This very small portrait of a black person with extremely exaggerated features evokes intimacy and vulnerability because of its size. The face barely fits the canvas, which is the size of a pack of cigarettes. It is almost like a disembodied mask without the neck and the full face fitting the canvas. The size of it also resembles portrait miniatures, a practice that was popular among the 16th century elites. Contrasting to portrait miniatures, it looks as if Ofili remembered this face that he encountered, and sketched it very quickly. The identity of the portrayed person is unknown, as it is not titled either. According to Stuart Morgan (1994), 'He had made a series of paintings of black people – a father, a mother, a child- which touched on the sense of identity. Yet it was his own identity.' Diversity of the self comes into play through Morgan’s reading and Ofili’s quote. Untitled is the smallest painting in the British Council Collection.
Mark Wallinger
Self Portrait as Emily Davison, 1993

Photograph on aluminium, 137 x 89 cm © The Artist
David Shrigley
Your Portrait Here, 1998

C-print (diptych), 15.2 cm x 20.3 cm, © The Artist
Shrigley’s diptych photograph is a handwritten note from the artist to the passengers on a bus. The photograph on the left takes us to the inside of a bus in the year 1997. The white board reads “YOUR PORTRAIT HERE (ANY STYLE) 10- ASK DRIVER”. The driver is present in his seat and visible through the rear view. On the right, there is a portrait on the white board in the form of a sketch. It is a different bus, and the driver is not visible. We go through the experience of looking at faces on public transportation often, to the point where we do not pay attention anymore. However, faces are still different than staring at blank seats indifferently. Faces evoke feelings, and we shift our gaze between faces on the bus, faces on our screens, and our own face in the rear view. Shrigley takes this mundane phenomenon and creates a scenario in which the passengers are invited to get their portrait drawn on the white board, or simply to draw their portrait on the board. He makes an attempt to replace our experience of encountering elaborate portraits of political or aristocratic figures in public places, into an experience of encountering sketches of everyday people.
  • Frank Auerbach

    When Stephen Smith Met Artist

  • Mary McCartney

    On Frank Auerbach

  • Lucian Freud

    In His Studio

  • Lucian Freud

    Portraits

  • Gary Hume

    Studio Visit

  • The Art of Dissonance

    Lubaina Himid, Alan Kane and Ed Hall

  • Lubaina Himid

    Turner Prize 2017

  • Madame Yevonde

    Goddesses

  • Talking To

    Tracey Emin

  • Sarah Lucas

    Venice 2015

  • Chris Ofili

    No Woman, No Cry

  • Mark Wallinger

    Manifesto Marathon 2008

  • David Shrigley

    About The Artist

  • David Shrigley

    Welcome To My Studio

  • Jake And Dinos Chapman

    In Conversation

  • Commissioning Portraits

    The National Portrait Gallery

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