29 August 2013

Art Martha. BP Portrait Award 2012.

I really should have posted this at the time, but for some reason what I wrote has sat lingering in my drafts folder. Stepping back in time to almost twelve months ago, I visited London's National Portrait Gallery to see the BP Portrait Award. I was struck by how photographic many of the paintings appeared to be in this compelling exhibition, Ben Ashton's Lindsay Lohan (pictured) a case in point. I found myself checking each plaque and painting to be sure I was looking at oil on canvas and not ink on paper. It's fair to say that the relationship between painting and photography hasn't always been rosy, and I pondered this as I strolled about. I thought about where photography was now and came up with nothing. Only a few years ago it was almost a crime to take a photo, yet now what is wrong with you if you're not — everyone is a photographer. Landscape mode has become the standard for portraits, and Photoshop keeps ageing pop stars with both feet in 1984. Apps and algorithms are the automated norm a la Instagram, Flickr and Facebook, and phones with cameras are just as good as dedicated ones. Digital photography is fast, furious and ubiquitous, yet slow burn alchemic processes are growing in popularity just as 3D printing becomes more accessible. A year on and I'm still thinking about the 2012 BP Portrait Award, testament to its understated cleverness. I wish I could go to this year's one.

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