CONNECTED: THE CHANGING FACE OF BRITAIN
PRIVATE VIEW: 30th November 6.30pm-8.30pm
Exhibition continues: Monday, 26 November-Thursday 10 January 2019
Waterstones Lower Floor Gallery, 82 Gower St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6EQ
The Lots Road Group’s latest exhibition presents a microcosm of contemporary British society through the artists’ own connection to family and friends.
Seventeen members of the group have chosen an eclectic mix of sitters – diverse in age, gender, ethnicity, and nationality of origin. Having connected with each other through their attendance at The Heatherley School of Art they decided to explore through portraiture how their personal connections spread outwards and reflect life in 21st century Britain.
Set against the backdrop of Brexit, a time often described as divisive, their sitters are people to whom they have personal ties, some traditionally British from Aberdeenshire, Cornwall, Oxfordshire, Sussex and Yorkshire, as well as residents who have come here from a staggering array of countries: Bolivia, Brazil, British Guiana, Eritrea, France, Iraq, Norway, Pakistan, Poland and the United States.
Lots Road Group representative, Hilary Puxley said, “We started with the simple idea of painting people to whom we are connected, and have been astounded by the results! The list of countries with which our sitters are associated is astonishing and reflects a sea change in British society. Our artists have come up with a wealth of compelling and sometimes touching stories that evidence a much kinder and more welcoming Britain than you might suspect. I think the public will find the portraits fascinating.”
Their charity partner this year is Children & the Arts whose CEO, Rosie Millard OBE said, “I am delighted that Children & the Arts is partnering the distinguished Lots Road Group in this year’s exhibition, which testifies so beautifully and powerfully that art is an essential expression of humanity. Without it our lives are diminished. We work with thousands of children across the nation and across all art forms. We change lives and open up vistas. On the threshold of a time when the UK moves away from Europe into an uncertain future, our mission has never seemed more important, and it has never seemed more appropriate and meaningful for us to be connected with this wonderful show which celebrates life with all its diversity and difference.”
As usual, their exhibition has a narrative component which introduces their sitters and explains how they are connected to them.
Several sitters evidence changing tastes, of Britain being more open both to world, to different lifestyles and conscious of the impact all our lives have on our environment:
- Martin Burrough’s sitter is Thomasina Miers who founded the Wahaca chain of restaurants, bringing Mexican food to our attention and introducing British palates to exciting new combinations of flavours.
- French-born Laurence Collis’ sitter is her partner Tim Peacock who grew up in Yorkshire but moved to the south of England. They met when he came to fix her motorbike and has had to adapt to her bilingual family. Tim represents the antithesis of a changing Britain with his passion for conserving and curating things of value from the past.
- New Zealand born Sarah Jane Moon’s sitter is fellow immigrant Krishna Istha, a US-born performer. Both have fallen in love with London’s live art and queer scenes and, through the creative arts actively promote visibility and representation of under-represented people like them.
- Hilary Puxley’s sitter is her long-term friend Soli Mehta who came here from Karachi and whose import business created new designs for traditional crafts and brought them to the British high street.
- Lucinda Rendall’s sitter is Brazilian-born Diegos Barros, now a British citizen and her third son’s partner, a personal trainer and body builder who designs and markets clothes.
- Sarah Reynolds’ sitter is Sophie Robinson, an interior designer, broadcaster and TV presenter of BBC 2’s The Great Interior Design Challenge and DIY SOS, whose mission is to bring colour and optimism to British interior design.
- Sarah Richardson’s sitter is her neighbour Bolivian-raised Annie Copponex who has lived in Britain for 50 years with her Swiss-born husband Jean-Pierre and made British culture her own without losing touch with her Bolivian roots, turning her house into a living museum of artifacts and cooking and making objects for her regular Bolivian fiestas.
- Elizabeth Shields’ sitter is her brother John; their shared connection is to their homeland Aberdeenshire, where John is attempting to put a traditional estate on a more environmentally sustainable footing.
- Stella Tooth’s sitters are Ben and Sacha Bowling who are pictured with their father, British Guianan-born Frank Bowling OBE RA’s, painting. Frank fled to New York after graduating from the RCA to avoid attempts to pigeon-hole him. A Tate Britain retrospective next year will establish the artist who now lives in London as one of today’s most brilliant painters.
- Ukrainian-born Alla Broeksmit has chosen to portray herself as she feels she personally exemplifies multiple connections. She splits her time between London, with its cultural and artistic opportunities and her family in New York, but looks to her childhood in Ukraine for her artistic inspiration.
There are also very long-term friendships, touching stories of young people being added to family circles, and of courageous immigrants finding a new life in this country, or helping others acquire skills they need:
- Hero Johnson’s sitter is Cornish-born, London-based Kathryn Patrick, a friend since infant school, pictured in front of the Botallack Mine, where she sat when her husband proposed.
- Katherine Firth’s Polish-born sitter, Kasia, is a former employee and now friend who has become a British citizen who lives in Cambridge and teaches female immigrants from all over the world.
- Stuart Howitt’s mixed-heritage, Norway-born sitter Boris is a graphic designer whom he met at their local gym. Boris’ pose echoes the look of a passport photo, engaging with the viewers in a way that shows the determination and courage it takes to start a new life in a foreign country.
- Christine Klein – Cailliau’s sitter is London-based Sarah Lewis whose African-European heritage is reflected in her different coloured eyes. The youngest of eight siblings, Sarah grew up on a council estate in Poplar, east London and met Christine’s daughter Celine on Channel 4’s Celebs go Dating. She now has a modelling career, as Christine once did.
- Colleen Quill’s sitter is 28-year-old Eritrean-born Abnet Anday, whose quest for a better education led her to being taken into social care in London and eventually graduating in psychology at the University of Worcester, where she studied with Colleen’s daughter Maria.
- Maureen Nathan’s sitter is her 92-year-old mother-in-law Victoria, who came to England in 1960 with her husband and children from Iraq.
- Mark Stevenson’s sitter is his French-born long-term friend Patrick Deguara, who is now a chiropractor in Witney, with whom he shares a love of cooking and golf.
Their charity partner this year is Children & the Arts which works with arts venues across the UK to reach children in communities and hospices who may be in danger of missing out on creative and cultural experiences. Since the charity was founded in 2006, it has given half a million children access to the arts, provided more than 1000 children and families affected by life-limiting illness with therapeutic arts experiences, and created more than 6000 partnerships between schools and arts organisations in the most deprived areas of the country.