‘MUSICIAN Portraits’ is the new exhibition by visual artist, Joe Simpson. Launching in October in a bespoke pop-up gallery, the event will feature never before seen intimate portraits of high-profile musical celebrities.
The long awaited exhibition comprises of a series of twenty-two paintings, each piece oil on canvas (60x60 m). Among the famous musicians who sat for the project are David Gray, Jamie Cullum, Paloma Faith, Maxi Jazz, Brandon Flowers and Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend). Each portrait will portray a different musician in various eclectic musical genres, nationalities and guises.
“The paintings have physicality to them that you don’t get with a photograph. The paint has a specific weight and application and you can see layers and brush marks in the hair and skin tones of the subjects."
The 27-year-old artist travelled across the UK and worldwide to meet the musicians at their homes, studios, even backstage at concerts, arena tours and festivals. The exhibition has been over a year in the making.
Once he caught up with the musicians, Simpson took an original photograph of the artists to work from and create the oil painting, and impressively, each painting took a little under two weeks to complete.
Already shortlisted for the prestigious BP Portrait Award 2001 for his portrait of Maxi Jazz of Faithless, Simpson possesses an awe-inspiring talent to paint realistically. Drawing influences from cinematography to create frozen scenes detached from a wider context, his art has been shown internationally, including displays in the Air Gallery, The Hospital in Covent Garden and Manchester City Art gallery. The shortlisted painting has also been exhibited at The National Portrait Gallery, which has proved to be the most popular show in the gallery’s history.
Speaking on the idea behind the pieces, he explains, “The paintings have physicality to them that you don’t get with a photograph. The paint has a specific weight and application and you can see layers and brush marks in the hair and skin tones of the subjects. I’m really excited to see all the paintings displayed together under one roof for the very first time.
“I’ve tried to root each painting in a tradition of painted portraiture – each piece has a quiet, still and almost introspective feel. I’ve attempted to capture the way that each musician held themselves when I met them, usually I didn’t give the musicians a great deal of direction, or plan how I wanted the piece to turn out.”
Simpson has previously intertwined art and music in his work. His first major exhibition in 2009, ‘Almost There’, saw collaboration between Simpson and a mixture of twelve bands and solo artists (including The Miserable Rich, Nizlopi, The Voluntary Butler Scheme, New Cassettes and Jose Vanders) to create a series of paintings, drawing inspiration from the ‘road movie’ genre. The exhibition was also accompanied with an original soundtrack. Each song was written specially for the accompanying painting, inspired by the scene and composed to complement the mood of the image. Headphones were displayed alongside the pieces, so that you could simultaneously view the image and listen to the music specifically written for it. The visual and audio components come together to create one new piece of art.
The exhibition is free and will take place at 16 – 17 Greek Street, Soho W1D 4DR from 14th – 30 October.
After the exhibition, the paintings will be sold and 25 percent of the sale will be donated to ‘Seeing is Believing’ (www.seeingisbelieving.org), a global initiative to tackle avoidable blindness. Standard Chartered will match the total donation from the sales. The exhibition launch night on 13 October coincides with World Sight Day.
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