Exploring Portraiture: New Exhibition at University of Hertfordshire

Portraiture Exhibition Chloe Hodson, Colour Blind, 2020, photograph

A new art exhibition exploring portraiture, presented by University of Hertfordshire Arts + Culture, opens on Friday 20 October at the Art + Design Gallery, College Lane. Together showcases works selected from the University’s permanent art collection, in its inaugural year as an Accredited Museum. The exhibition runs until Saturday 13 January 2024.

Curator, Elizabeth Murton comments: ‘UH Arts + Culture are thrilled to present this exhibition that celebrates portraiture from the University’s diverse art collection. Whilst portraits of the past have similarities with the current social media trend to edit images favourably and to present stature of the individual, they also – through sharing stories – provide opportunities for empathy and ‘togetherness’.’

The exhibition, titled Together, is a small snapshot into the multiplicity of human experience. Every portrait captures a moment in a person’s life – through the lens of the sitter, artist, or sponsor. The stories explored in this exhibition are diverse, and begin in the 1700s, but there are connections to our contemporary era and the issues we face today. The works have been selected from the University’s permanent collection, echoing one of the Collection’s aims – to invite people to step out of their own contexts and disciplines, to think and question.

Spanning a wide range of styles, media and approaches taken to portraiture, from the 18th century to the modern day, the works propose varied and often unconventional ways of representing an individual. Including painting, sculpture, print and photography, the works bridge from historic portraits depicting status to artworks exploring identity, mental health, and relationships. Some of the exhibited works represent ideas of acceptance, friendship, and combined strength within notions of cultural diversity, whilst other works examine ideas of personhood and shareable human experience. There are references to the iconic little black dress and female identity in western culture, as well as nods to environmental and social issues of sustainability. In other works, the body captured is in flux – moving across the image or obscuring the subject’s face, creating space between the observer and the observed.

The portraits in the exhibition are diverse and yet, relatable. By sharing stories, they invite opportunities for empathy and ‘togetherness’. They look directly at us or purposefully away, sitting on the threshold of their worlds, and inviting us to connect to their different stories.

There is a special Opening Reception on Thursday 19 October 2023, 5-6.30pm. Everyone is welcome at the event.

Together runs from Friday 20 October 2023-Saturday 13 January 2024 at the Art + Design Gallery, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield. No booking necessary.

Find out more at: www.uharts.co.uk @UniHertsArts

Image: Chloe Hodson, Colour Blind, 2020