Turning people into portraits
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.