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Paul Morrison turns portraiture on its head in new exhibition at Sheffield's Graves Gallery
Julian Opie, Julian, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery, London

SHEFFIELD.- The depiction of the head or face is one of the most compelling images in our visual language. This summer, Heads Roll, a new exhibition curated by artist Paul Morrison, presents a constellation of historical and contemporary perspectives to explore our preconceptions of this most familiar genre.

Opening at Sheffield’s Graves Gallery on Saturday 11 August 2018, Heads Roll will feature work by over 60 nationally and internationally renowned artists, including Glenn Brown, Jessica Diamond, Gwen John, Klara Kristalova, Michael Craig-Martin, Ben Nicholson, Julian Opie, Rembrandt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Walter Sickert and more.

Dating back to Ancient Egypt, portraiture has a long tradition as a record of status, power and achievement, and a reminder of those gone before. In the age of the selfie, the portrait has become ephemera, gone in the blink of an eye. Featuring a range of contemporary works alongside examples from city’s collections spanning 400 years, Heads Roll will re-examine our relationship with the portraiture, exploring the subject through ideas of resemblance, abstraction, fiction and authenticity.

The exhibition will invite viewers to consider the role the portrait performs; a rich visual repository of information on a subject’s life; a memento mori, a ghostly reminder of our the sitter’s mortality as well as our own; or at its simplest level, a representation of a familiar physical object with a series of recognisable defining characteristics.

Amongst the works on display in the exhibition will be Jessica Diamond’s “Untitled (O Small Small Head…)” 1989/1991, a wall-based text work describing the anticipation of a baby’s first word(s)/language, and Michael Craig Martin’s 2007 Self-Portrait (Purple), which sees the artist rendered in bold, flat hues of purple, lilac and blue. Included in the works drawn from Sheffield’s Visual Art collection are Judith with the Head of Holfernes (1610-1620), After Carlo Saraceni, depicting the biblical story of Judith’s beheading of the general about to destroy her home, and Walter Sickert’s Portrait of a Woman (1935), which foregrounds the structures of the face almost to the point of abstraction.

Sian Brown, Head of Collections at Museums Sheffield said: “The representation of the head and face is arguably the most fundamental of images. As babies, it’s the first thing we come to recognise and throughout our lives the face continues to be perhaps the most potent element in our visual understanding. We’re thrilled to be working with Paul Morrison on his inspired exploration of portraiture here at the Graves Gallery.”

Paul Morrison is a contemporary British artist internationally-renowned for his appropriated monochromatic site-specific wallpaintings, paintings, sculpture, films, drawings and prints. He lives and works in Sheffield and recently opened Attercliffe™, a new artist directed space in the east end of the city. He studied at Sheffield City Polytechnic and Goldsmiths College, London and has exhibited widely in museums and galleries around the world for over 20 years. His works are held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Städel Museum in Frankfurt and many more.

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