Saturday, May 10, 2014

Stuart Pearson Wright

The Six Presidents of the British Academy (Gallus Gallus with Still Life and Presidents)
oil on linen
167 x 147.5 cm
Collection of British Academy, UK
-Fair use-

"Stuart Pearson Wright’s work is masterly and contemporary, as well as slightly unnerving and surreal." (Sarah Howgate, contemporary curator, National Portrait Gallery, London)

The commissioning of this painting coincided with the British Academy’s centenary in 2002, and depicts the six Presidents of the Academy who were then living. The painting won the NPG/BP Portrait Award in 2001.
The British Academy was established by Royal Charter in 1902, under the full title of 'The British Academy for the Promotion of Historical, Philosophical and Philological Studies'. It is an independent and self-governing fellowship of scholars, elected for distinction and achievement in one or more branches of the academic disciplines that make up the humanities and social sciences, and is now organized in 18 sections by academic discipline.

"As soon as you put chickens in an unusual context they become macabre. The skin of a plucked chicken reminds me of the skin of a human being, particularly an old human being, so that the presence of a chicken for me becomes a memento mori." (Stuart Pearson Wright)

Stuart Pearson Wright (1975-), born in Northampton, a seaside town in southern England, living and working in East London, is a prize-winning painter, best known for his portraits of leading figures in the arts and literature. He is considered the most gifted portraitist of his generation with twenty-seven paintings in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. He drew with enthusiasm from an early age and after flirting with the idea of becoming an actor, finally opted for art school. He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, University College of London (1995-1999), receiving a B.A. in Fine Art. During his time at the Slade, in 1998, he won a travel award from the National Portrait Gallery. He set out in a van on a trip around Britain, producing sketches and paintings as he went. In 2001, his career had taken an unexpected turn when he won the first prize in the BP Portrait Awards for his painting Gallus gallus with Still Life and Presidents. It was described as "astounding", showing the men surrounding a dead chicken.

As part of the BP awards first prize, he was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create a portrait of the children's author J.K.Rowling. This portrait took him nearly a year to complete and saw his work moving in a new direction. The portrait was conceived in the manner of a regency toy theatre, with the figure painted onto a flat cut-out and mounted in a three-dimensional space. In 2005, he won the Garrick/Milne Prize.

He refers to his own paintings as "pseudo portraits" presenting as they do a subject's "inner state" rather than just an accurate record of their outward appearance. His work is included in the collections of the British Museum, Government Art Collection, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum USA, and the Barings Bank collection, Brussels.