Catherine Goodman: Portraits from Life at the National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery has just unveiled a new exhibition of paintings by the noted artist, and winner of the BP Portrait Award 2002, Catherine Goodman. Her latest set, which she has spent the last three years working on, features among her many sitters a few noted celebrities, including film director Stephen Frears, poet and broadcaster Daisy Goodwin, and lawyer Diana Rawstron.
At first glance Goodman’s work is decidedly impressionistic; the faces of the models are built up by – or rather fractured into – a myriad of hues that from a certain distance coalesce into readable forms. They are explicitly painterly, and energetically capture the face of the depicted via broad and thick, or nervous, burrowing brush strokes. The artist claims that her portraits are the result of much trial and error and lengthy sittings in her studio, where a gradual trust between painter and subject help to create a likeness of the individual that is both physical and psychological. Her brush, although seemingly dancing across the canvas with improvisational vigour, in truth follows a strict choreography that would seem to investigate the inner lives of those portrayed. The preparatory process involved is exemplified with a small selection of interesting sketches and drawings that convey the same succinctness in putting to paper the sitter’s personality. An interesting example is the painting of actress Pearl Chanda, whose face is dramatically cloaked on one side by shadow, evocatively echoing the girl’s profession, and the necessary mental preparation prior to carrying out a performance. Or the portrait of Diana Rawstron, where the face’s regal calm speaks of a wisdom gained from a long and prestigious career. The vivid blue eyes of the portrait of art student Nicholas Leigh seem to speak of the idealistic passion of youth as well as its hopes and ambitions for the future.
The artist’s self-portrait is perhaps the most expressionistic, perhaps because here she is able to freely visualise herself, or the image she wishes to convey of herself. Although most visitors to the gallery are drawn by the prospects of seeing paintings of famous faces they remember from history class, it is usually the modern galleries that are the most artistically interesting and inspiring. Catherine Goodman’s portraiture, while not the most blatantly original, are nevertheless fascinating for their painterly elegance and their psychological insight.
Catherine Goodman: Portraits from Life is at the National Portrait Gallery until 23rd November 2014. For further information or to book visit the gallery’s website here.