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The Value of Portraiture: Painting as a Social Practice

The Value of Portraiture: Painting as a Social Practice
The Value of Portraiture: Painting as a Social Practice
The Value of Portraiture: Painting as Social Practice is a doctoral research project underpinned by the portraits I make: a particular production of painting domestic sized portraits in specific public participatory and community situated contexts, and the ensuing distribution of these objects through various circulations of exchange. The research frames a series of questions about the value of painting people through the circulation of portraiture, painting, social engagement and gift and information exchange, all of which is situated around the alternative economics of post-Capitalism. Overall, the thesis spans three interconnected projects, which are used as case studies. The first was a self-initiated programme offering painted portraits for services, gifts and favours, which took place in my own network of friends. This project was then extended with a follow-up project in collaboration with The Museum in London, which experimented with a public facing ‘Interchange’ of interactions working directly with visitors to the museum. The third and final project sought a new context and network devised as Herbert Butler Neighbourly Portraits. For this I offered portrait sitting to my fellow residents of the council estate where I live in East London in return for their stories of neighbourly exchanges for the better or worse. Questions of subject, subjectivity, community and located ness are common to each of the projects, but with each offering different responses that lead to new considerations about the potential ‘value’ (or values) of portraiture as a form of social practice. Throughout, I explore how painting and portraiture can be used as a tool for social engagement and a conduit for exchange: highlighting and developing processes of conversation, interaction and shared experience of the painting process. Simultaneously, I define and reveal how contemporary painting can operate in the social sphere as part of a collaborative, participatory and community situated public art process. The values of portraiture through social practice that I propose offer a pertinent phenomenon and highlight how portrait making can reveal personal and political networks of care and consciousness raising that can embolden the most pressing activist causes in our current situation. I suggest that, in the context of Art and Post Capitalism, portraiture’s means of creating exchange and encounters between people can be considered as a form of alternative economics. The position I take is revealed through the processes of my own making and the work of other contemporaries who similarly adopt socially engaged methods. Parallel to these practices are the critical fields of painting and the socially engaged which are often confusingly conflated with aesthetics and politics and used in the case of object-based art vs social practice art. I seek to use the rehabilitation of the aesthetic to draw out a more nuanced discussion. To contextualise my practice, I combine historical and critical contemporary discussion regarding the situation of painting and portrait making through the combined lenses of art history, philosophy, sociology, and visual culture. I have drawn on the notion of Realisms in the 20th Century via Berger and Nochlin which points to an alternative portrait and figurative painting trajectory that highlights artists whose processes of painting people can be examined as socially engaged. Overall, I put forward that portraiture has more in common with socially engaged practice than a seemingly overarching dichotomy of painting and socially engaged arts practice. Contrary to the apparently oppositional standpoints of a social practice of painting, aesthetics and politics, I present a series of shared concerns/points of connectivity and highlight their values. Furthermore, I propose that these processes of painting people are becoming an increasingly relevant form of connection to each other nd means of exchange as we head into a very uncertain and socially distanced future.
University of Southampton
Woollett, Lucy, Caroline
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Woollett, Lucy, Caroline
e5c24182-83c4-490f-8f95-ac66a147cdaf
Manghani, Sunil
75650a9a-458d-4e1a-9480-94491300e385
Hon, Gordon, Andrew
39383a36-359e-4942-ab92-8f51978ea379

Woollett, Lucy, Caroline (2022) The Value of Portraiture: Painting as a Social Practice. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 260pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The Value of Portraiture: Painting as Social Practice is a doctoral research project underpinned by the portraits I make: a particular production of painting domestic sized portraits in specific public participatory and community situated contexts, and the ensuing distribution of these objects through various circulations of exchange. The research frames a series of questions about the value of painting people through the circulation of portraiture, painting, social engagement and gift and information exchange, all of which is situated around the alternative economics of post-Capitalism. Overall, the thesis spans three interconnected projects, which are used as case studies. The first was a self-initiated programme offering painted portraits for services, gifts and favours, which took place in my own network of friends. This project was then extended with a follow-up project in collaboration with The Museum in London, which experimented with a public facing ‘Interchange’ of interactions working directly with visitors to the museum. The third and final project sought a new context and network devised as Herbert Butler Neighbourly Portraits. For this I offered portrait sitting to my fellow residents of the council estate where I live in East London in return for their stories of neighbourly exchanges for the better or worse. Questions of subject, subjectivity, community and located ness are common to each of the projects, but with each offering different responses that lead to new considerations about the potential ‘value’ (or values) of portraiture as a form of social practice. Throughout, I explore how painting and portraiture can be used as a tool for social engagement and a conduit for exchange: highlighting and developing processes of conversation, interaction and shared experience of the painting process. Simultaneously, I define and reveal how contemporary painting can operate in the social sphere as part of a collaborative, participatory and community situated public art process. The values of portraiture through social practice that I propose offer a pertinent phenomenon and highlight how portrait making can reveal personal and political networks of care and consciousness raising that can embolden the most pressing activist causes in our current situation. I suggest that, in the context of Art and Post Capitalism, portraiture’s means of creating exchange and encounters between people can be considered as a form of alternative economics. The position I take is revealed through the processes of my own making and the work of other contemporaries who similarly adopt socially engaged methods. Parallel to these practices are the critical fields of painting and the socially engaged which are often confusingly conflated with aesthetics and politics and used in the case of object-based art vs social practice art. I seek to use the rehabilitation of the aesthetic to draw out a more nuanced discussion. To contextualise my practice, I combine historical and critical contemporary discussion regarding the situation of painting and portrait making through the combined lenses of art history, philosophy, sociology, and visual culture. I have drawn on the notion of Realisms in the 20th Century via Berger and Nochlin which points to an alternative portrait and figurative painting trajectory that highlights artists whose processes of painting people can be examined as socially engaged. Overall, I put forward that portraiture has more in common with socially engaged practice than a seemingly overarching dichotomy of painting and socially engaged arts practice. Contrary to the apparently oppositional standpoints of a social practice of painting, aesthetics and politics, I present a series of shared concerns/points of connectivity and highlight their values. Furthermore, I propose that these processes of painting people are becoming an increasingly relevant form of connection to each other nd means of exchange as we head into a very uncertain and socially distanced future.

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Published date: March 2022

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 455444
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/455444
PURE UUID: dacbad11-02bc-464c-8071-011398c4d85d
ORCID for Sunil Manghani: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-6406-7456

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 22 Mar 2022 17:30
Last modified: 23 Mar 2022 02:42

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Contributors

Author: Lucy, Caroline Woollett
Thesis advisor: Sunil Manghani ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Gordon, Andrew Hon

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