The British Figure
Flowers Gallery presents The British Figure, bringing together works by British artists exploring the human form over the past thirty years. Demonstrating diverse approaches to process, handling of materials and subject matter, they investigate broad themes from political and social allegory to issues of gender and sexuality, reflecting contemporary human sensibilities and attitudes towards the world around us.
Exploring states of mind through the figure, the awkward poses of Stephen Chambers' flattened and patterned figures such as The Inner Wrist I, (2001) present an uneasy vision of the contemporary figure. Suspended in space, his sitters' hands are anxiously fiddling or tugging at clothing.
Tackling the objectification of the body, Nadav Kander's Audrey with Toes and Wrist Bent (2011) seeks to expose the vulnerability of the human condition. Audrey's body has been coated with white marble dust and set against the void of the photographer's studio. Far from the airbrushed perfection that permeates images of nudity in popular culture, Audrey's pose references forms of the classical and renaissance past, whilst modernising the genre of the nude to act as a tool for philosophical investigation.
Approaching the complexities of gender and sexuality, Dawn Mellor explores the painful aspects of female experience, often linked to today's obsessions with celebrity, while John Kirby's paintings describe, allegorically, the suffering of people squeezed into the straightjackets of religious, sexual and social norms. For the Scottish figurative painters Peter Howson and Jock McFadyen, their specific focus on marginalized characters reflects a concern with the brutal nature of societal order, manifested in their use of exaggerated physicality.
The many faces of human conflict are personified by Nicola Hicks in a series of sculptures, presented as a separate installation within the exhibition, entitled Men of War. The six figures which comprise the monument have decidedly masculine overtones, suggested by titles such as Peckerhead, Johnson and Cleverdick; from an oil baron, to the broken-down figure of a returning soldier.
The exhibition features several works which have not been exhibited before, including a new and rare example of figure painting by Tom Phillips RA, whose epic work A Humument (1966-2015) is currently installed in its own room at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Ishbel Myerscough's BP Portrait Prize award-winning Krishenda (1995), will be on show, coinciding with a joint display Friendship Portraits: Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough currently at the National Portrait Gallery.