Galleries - September 2015

54 GALLERIES SEPTEMBER 2015 Visual and verbal punning is a common thread in Banner’s works whatever the medium. In her ‘wordscapes’ of the 1990s, text cut from canvas resulted in violent but empty words; in ‘Harrier and Jaguar’ (2010), decommissioned fighter planes hung in Tate Britain for intellectual consideration; here the wall-mounted nose cones of two planes become aggressive- looking pinstriped trophies or breasts (‘Untitled’ 2015). ‘Heart of Darkness’ is a prime example of the way Banner mixes ideas and media. The reprint of Conrad’s novel juxtaposes text with photographs of the City of London, drawing a sly comparison between the settings of each, and incorporates her pinstripe drawings, where close-up folds of cloth resemble sinuous living things. A 19th C. baptismal font engraved with the word ‘font’ stands at the entrance of Fiona Banner’s Frith Street Gallery show – also titled ‘Font’ (18Sep - 31 Oct) . Banner’s works are conceptual, and ‘Font’ will question and inform its visitors through word and image, textual and visual illusion, form and negative space. Despite the modernity of the works, they remind of older reference points – compare these textual works with the illuminated manuscript created in England 700 years ago. There are similarities: the focus on the word, lines that twist and may become a new form at any point, jokes that suggest and engage their audience. Banner’s website visitors can download her original typeface (also titled font), the genesis of which she describes in biblical terms: “Bookman and Onyx mate; their child mates with Capitalist and Klang’s offspring.” The contrast between the ease of the contemporary download with the toil of the illuminators who laboured over the text of the gospels, becomes one of the negative spaces that populate her works. CODA Writing on the Wall Frances Allitt Fiona Banner ‘Mistah Kurtz - He Not Dead’ 2014 (detail), at Frith Street Gallery Weight, Feliks Topolski and Cecil Collins as well as talented, lesser known artists, formed the basis of my book, ‘Face to Face: British Self-Portraits in the Twentieth Century’ (Sansom & Co, 2004). Collection highlights were shown at Pallant House, Chichester, earlier this year. In 2011 ‘The Next Generation Collection ‘ was launched as a means of celebrating self- portraiture in contemporary British and Irish art, and continuing Ruth Borchard’s project into the 21st C. Previous winners of the £10,000 Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Prize are Celia Paul (2011) and Thomas Newbolt (2013). This year’s winner is Shanti Panchal for ‘Artist and the Lost Studio’ – a multi layered watercolour of fresco-like depth and subtle vibrancy – utter At the heart of the western self- portrait painting tradition is a paradox: the artist seeks to scrutinise his or her own inimitable distinctiveness – yet individual human identity remains enigmatically elusive, intangible even. The painter Lawrence Gowing evoked the nature of the self- portraitist’s unflinching gaze in the image of ‘the two fixed and transfixing points of a self-portrait which fasten that which is seen to we know not what, and fastens us remorselessly to the riddle’. Between 1958 and 1971, ‘dowsing for talent’, the writer Ruth Borchard (1910-2000) collected 100 self-portraits by British and British-based artists. This collection, including works by Anne Redpath, Keith Vaughan, F.N. de Souza, Carel antithesis of an enervatingly over literal ‘selfie’ approach. In 1968, Borchard wrote, ‘Why cannot we have paintings (in British art) like Goya’s? Why not the cri de coeur in what is being painted? Perhaps the present re-emergence of figurative painting will bring this in its train.’ Among more than 50 contemporary self-portraits acquired for ‘The Next Generation Collection’ are works by Maggi Hambling, John Keane, Lucy Jones, Shani Rhys- James, Jiro Osuga, Julie Held and Fred Crayk – details at and a new, updated edition of ‘Face to Face’. ’The Ruth Borchard Self- Portrait Exhibition’ is at Piano Nobile, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 until 9 October. Dowsing for Talent Philip Vann