Turn­ing peo­ple into por­traits

Whanganui Midweek - - PATH OF LIFE -

Tylee Cot­tage artist-in-res­i­dence Ju­lia Holden is known for her per­for­mance paint­ing por­traits which chal­lenge and pay homage to the por­trait paint­ing tra­di­tion.

Us­ing peo­ple as her can­vas Ju­lia clothes her mod­els in be­spoke cos­tumes, clay moulded hair­styles and lay­ers of paint to cre­ate a dy­namic work of art. Her por­traits in­cor­po­rate el­e­ments of per­for­mance, paint­ing and photography. The sub­jects are taken from painted works and of­ten his­tor­i­cal pho­to­graphs. They ex­ist in re­al­ity only long enough to pho­to­graph and film and then the drip­ping paint is washed away. The pho­to­graphic por­trait is all that re­mains of the process.

“The por­trait work for me is a true col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween my­self and the per­son who is act­ing as my liv­ing can­vas, be that per­son an artist or some­one in the com­mu­nity,” says Ju­lia. “There is a di­a­logue and an in­ti­macy which comes about as a re­sult of cre­at­ing the work be­cause it is based on the con­ver­sa­tion and the trust that de­vel­ops. It is a col­lab­o­ra­tion in a re­ally true sense in that they are an ac­tive part of the por­trait. The ac­tual paint­ing hap­pens fairly quickly both be­cause I don’t want my sub­ject to be un­der the paint too long but also be­cause I am look­ing to cap­ture a very fresh, wet, im­me­di­ate and vis­ceral out­come.

“I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in the con­ver­sa­tion that hap­pens be­tween artists across time. Look­ing at works that have al­ready been fil­tered through the mind of an­other artist is re­ally in­ter­est­ing to me and it feels like I’m in a di­rect con­ver­sa­tion with them as I make the work. It gives me the ex­cuse to look deeply into a work that I might feel very drawn too and that the sub­ject also has a con­nec­tion to.”

Ju­lia’s Tylee Cot­tage res­i­dency co­in­cides with the 125 year an­niver­sary of women’s suf­frage and the ex­hi­bi­tion 125: Cel­e­brat­ing Women from the Col­lec­tion is on display at Sar­jeant on the Quay. In hon­our of this oc­ca­sion, Ju­lia has se­lected sev­eral por­traits from this col­lec­tion ex­hi­bi­tion to paint, in­clud­ing Ann Verd­court’s War­time Wendy and Edith Col­lier’s Cornish Wo­man of Span­ish De­scent. Ju­lia has in­vited vol­un­teers from the com­mu­nity to be the liv­ing can­vases.

“Ju­lia Holden’s work is an ex­tra­or­di­nary cross pol­li­na­tion of paint­ing, per­for­mance and photography. As view­ers, whether wit­ness­ing the live per­for­mance or view­ing the sub­se­quent pho­to­graphic record of the process, we wit­ness a con­ver­sa­tion, al­beit un­said be­tween Holden and the artist of the orig­i­nal work; the orig­i­nal sub­ject; and the per­son be­ing trans­formed into that sub­ject,” says Greg Don­son, Cu­ra­tor and Pub­lic Pro­grammes Man­ager.

To watch the paint­ing on­line live, be­come a Face­book friend of Sar­jeant Gallery Te Whare o Re­hua Whanganui and be on­line from 5.30pm, Thurs­day Novem­ber 29.


Ju­lia Holden turns peo­ple into liv­ing por­traits.

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