We are delighted to announce an upcoming exhibition in partnership with the contemporary portrait painter, Lorna May Wadsworth. From 4th – 18th June the gallery will be proud to present Neil Gaiman: Good Icon, a much-anticipated collaboration between the celebrated artist and award-winning English author Neil Gaiman.
In conjunction with the release of Amazon Prime’s Video adaptation of cult classic Good Omens[Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman] starring Michael Sheen, David Tennant and Jon Hamm, Wadsworth will be revealing portraits of Gaiman completed over several years. The pair first met in 2015 when backstage together at the Pleasance Theatre for Comic Relief and since then Wadsworth has served, at Gaiman’s request, as artist in residence for the filming of Good Omens.
The exhibition will include a two-metre painting of Gaiman’s face, entitled Big Neil, and another smaller but no-less-epochal composition Neil Gaiman: a Portrait (Bog-Oak Portrait), an almost mythical depiction of the author rendered in a 5,000-year-old piece of bog oak carved to resemble an ancient book or medieval relic. Wadsworth summarises how this particular work is imbued with a playful sense of irony when she writes: ‘Time is contained and condensed within this dark, dense tome which will never open.’ The resultant work is an example of two highly imaginative and inventive minds uniting to produce a unique portrait of one of the most celebrated English authors of our time. Gaiman’s writing fuses worlds and genres together to form some of the most internationally revered stories of the twenty-first century so far. Myth, legend and fairy tales are recurrent themes explored in his essays, comics and novels. This enriches his work with a prehistoric, even timeless quality that Wadsworth expertly explores in her portrait.
The work itself is a remarkable example of the genre of portraiture being stretched beyond the confines of the more traditional medium of oil on canvas. Painted in encaustic, itself a technique first dating to antiquity (1st Century AD), Wadsworth meticulously constructed the portrait through the layering of hot wax and pigment on sculpted bog oak dating from the Neolithic period. The resultant work is part-sculpture, part-painting and part-artefact.
Of describing his experience of sitting for Wadsworth, Gaiman has said: ‘The process of being painted by Lorna was an absolutely fascinating one of standing for her […] watching her somehow reproduce things that I don’t normally see about me, but that feel somehow accurate. It’s that thing that a really good portrait does – going just that little bit deeper beneath the skin. […] the person that Lorna has painted looks like they tell stories and looks like they have stories to tell.’ Wadsworth has described Neil as the embodiment of myth and legend, popular culture and rock and roll all at once, certainly a public figure worthy of such a grand scale portrait as Big Neil.