David HartPoetraits

Graham Kershaw
Senate House Exhibition Hall, University of Liverpool
Runs until April 1st

Reviewed by Josephine Raven

'Poetraits' is the first major project by the artist Graham Kershaw, a series of twelve portraits depicting contemporary British poets. Each image is accompanied by a hand-written poem composed by those depicted, representing their individual experiences of being painted or as a response to the finished artwork.

Kershaw’s painting style is relatively traditional; the compositions are well structured; yet his execution in comparison is less precise and in some places deliberately unfinished. There is a quality to his work reminiscent of the impressionist technique, paint often dabbed and unblended on the canvas surface, although finished with a greater degree of definition.

While some of the poetry was beyond my basic knowledge and comprehension, on the whole I feel they improved my experience of the portraits. I was able to gain a greater insight into the feelings behind the demeanour and expressions of those depicted, relaying their sense of alienation and discomfort such as in the poem by Hugo Williams or confidence and self-assurance from Clare Pollard.

Other addressed issues beyond the experience itself, such as Frieda Hughes who merely sees the artist capturing a single specific moment in time or Matt Harvey who tackles the artists inability to depict anything more than present persona. Probably my favourite poems are those by Roger McGough, ‘Pretty as a Picture’, and David Hart who offer a more light-hearted response to their final portraits.

I was able to draw parallels between the two, thereby enhancing my perception of the character and personality of those portrayed. The overall concept was executed successfully and offers an additional dimension to the traditional nature of portrait painting.