The art world has been divided since the beginning of the twentieth century. On the one side, the rejection of craft has led to a proliferation of intellectually empty, derivative ‘art’ that most people don’t understand and don’t like; and on the other side, artists who do have technical skills frequently choose to create highly conservative, old-fashioned and unimaginative works. Both groups create work that can, frankly, be terrible.

Similarly, art education has split. Most art schools and universities attempt to teach their students ‘creativity’, but do not equip them with the techniques necessary to express their ideas and concepts. In contrast, the modern-day atelier movement, for all its many strengths, focuses almost entirely on technical skill and tends to neglect originality and creativity.

The Lot 5 Collective, a group of contemporary figurative artists, aims to bridge the gap between these two camps with their new exhibition, ‘Face Value’, to be held at the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery in November. Drawn from a selection of contemporary artists from around the world, the exhibition is organised around one theme: the many faces of contemporary portraiture. With artists working in a range of styles, from photo realism to abstraction, the exhibition aims to bridge the gap between skill and concept.

Lot 5 is a group of representational artists. That is, we create work that represents something: you see one of our paintings and can understand that it represents a person, or a landscape, or a still-life. But we don’t reject others forms of art: instead, we examine them them, discover what there is to admire in them, and try to include those qualities in our representational art. We believe that it should be possible to create work that has the emotional impact of abstract art, the cleverness of conceptual art, and the skill and craft of figurative art.

Take this painting, entitled Sienna, by Lot 5 artist Lucas Garcia:

Lucas Garcia, Sienna, 2018, Oil on Board, 24 x 18 cm

It represents something – Garcia’s baby daughter, Sienna – but the artist hasn’t simply copied what he saw in front of him. The painting represents a set of decisions: with every stroke, Garcia has decided what paint to put where, and how, and has thus designed a series of interesting shapes that interact to create a pleasing and harmonious, yet dynamic, image. It’s a picture that you can contemplate and admire for its formal qualities, much like you would with a painting by Mondrian or Rothko, but Garcia has gone a step further: not only are those shapes interesting compositionally in terms of the patterns they form on the canvas, but they also create a portrait of a baby. The painting can be therefore be judged, and appreciated, in terms of the quality of its representation as well as its visual impact. The painting is also conceptually intriguing. It’s a visual pun – the only colour besides black and white that the artist has used is burnt sienna. Lucas has thus managed to combine the strengths of representational, abstract and conceptual art in a single painting that can be appreciated on multiple levels.

For our latest exhibition, ‘Face Value’, the Lot 5 Collective has assembled a group of artists from the UK, Ireland and the USA, whose work demonstrates technical ability but also has the power to inspire and make you think. The show will consist of the work of the seven Lot 5 artists as well as invited guest artists. These include Felicia Forte, whose painting Time Traveler, (Matthew Napping) was awarded Second Prize at the 2018 BP Portrait Awards, as well as Simon Davis, Emanuela de Musis, Shana Levenson, Anastasia Pollard, Nicolas Uribe, Emma Hopkins, Sofia Welch, Milo Hartnoll, Scott Eaton and Hans van der Leeuw.

The Lot 5 Collective itself consists of seven artists:

Lizet Dingemans was born in the Netherlands and now works as a full-time artist and teacher in London. In 2018, Lizet was a contestant in Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year and was nominated for Artists & Illustrators magazine ‘Artist of the Year’ in 2016. Her work has sold in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA.

Lizet Dingemans, Bacchus I, 2018, Oil on Board, 7 x 10 cm

SJ Fuerst was born in the USA and now lives in works in Malta. Fuerst’s beautiful and funny work mixes Pop art and classical painting, and is inspired by costumes, toys, and fashion photography.

SJ Fuerst, Uh-Huh Honey, 2018, Oil on Canvas, 122 x 122 cm

Lucas Garcia has exhibited multiple times at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and his painting Dirty Blond was highly commended by the de Laszlo Foundation in the 2018 exhibition.

Luca Indraccolo was born in Naples, Italy. Before pursuing a career in fine art, Indraccolo worked for 15 years as an art director with major advertising agencies across 3 countries, eventually serving as regional creative director at London’s Saatchi & Saatchi. His latest work takes inspiration from the fires that devastated the Vesuvius national park in the summer of 2017.

Luca Indraccolo, SMF•72•1821•12•18•25, 2018, Oil on Canvas, 140 x 70 cm

Stella Ishack enjoys the juxtaposition of creating intricately detailed, precise, representational portraits using unpredictable mediums such as charcoal and watercolour; harnessing the chaos in this way seems like a fitting way of examining human nature.

Stella Ishack, Mind Control, 2017, Giclee Print/Watercolour on Paper

Helen Masacz’s latest paintings draw on her passion for music, for which she has been interpreting album titles by well-known musicians. Her painting Technical Ecstasy (2018) is a portrait that reflects upon the current climate of paranoia and violence in the world and expresses how technology has created the means to destroy us.

Helen Masacz, Technical Ecstasy, 2018, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 80 cm

Harriet Spratt has exhibited at various shows in London, including the Royal Institute of Oil Painters where she won the Winsor & Newton Young Artist prize.

Harriet Spatt, Owen, 2017, Oil on Canvas, 82 x 138 cm

Face Value, Royal Opera Arcade Gallery, 8 – 17 November 2018

Words by Neil Davidson

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