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	Image: Shaun Gladwell Double Field/Viewfinder (Tarin Kowt) 2009-10 (detail) dual-channel synchronised high-definition video, 16:9, stereo, colour, 18:39 min © Shaun Gladwell

Fresh faces symposium

New thinking on portraiture

The genre of portraiture, a staple of Western art practice since the 16th century, has arguably dwindled in relevance since the advent of non-figurative and non-objective art forms.

Can new perspectives on portraiture revive our understanding of its purpose? What new models have emerged for considering portraits across the centuries as not only social reflections of their sitters, but as participants in innovative artistic practices? What new forms of portraiture have arisen in the 21st century, and how might the genre evolve with the advent of new media technologies and virtual environments? And what is the role of a portrait gallery in presenting and preserving images of national identity?

In this symposium spanning three centuries of portraiture, Australian and international scholars present new ways of looking at identity and persona in the art of the past and present.

Speakers include Angus Trumble (Director, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra), Prof Mark Ledbury (Director, Power Institute for Art and Visual Culture), Prof Alison Inglis (University of Melbourne), Dr Andrew Yip (Art Gallery of NSW) and Jo Higgins (independent art writer, formerly South London Gallery, author of 21st century portraits).



Welcome and introduction

Opening address
Facing Australia: towards a national portrait gallery
Angus Trumble, director, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

James Northcote: eccentric self-portraits
Professor Mark Ledbury, director, Power Institute for Art and Visual Culture, University of Sydney
The Art Gallery of NSW is home to a somewhat enigmatic self-portrait by the English artist James Northcote (1746-1831) – painter, writer and pupil of Joshua Reynolds. Northcote’s oeuvre produced a series of inventive, sometimes extraordinary portraits and self-portraits which allow us to explore notions of mobility, surprise and disguise in portraiture which continue to have relevance today.

Portraiture and the colonial collection: searching for portraits in the National Gallery of Victoria in the 19th century
Associate Professor Alison Inglis, University of Melbourne
This paper will investigate the significance of the portrait during the early years of the NGV by reconstructing this aspect of the collection prior to Federation. To what extent did the Trustees of Victoria’s leading colonial institution (consisting of Public Library, Museum and National Gallery combined) seek to fulfil the role of a national portrait gallery by adopting such traditions as 'the hall of fame’? What new perspectives are revealed by the presence of portraits in the colonial collection? By examining such initiatives as the NGV Travelling Scholarship (which started in 1887), it is hoped that fresh insights will be gained on the contribution of portraiture to the construction of cultural identity at the periphery of the British Empire.


Effaced: portraits from the war in Afghanistan
Dr Andrew Yip, Art Gallery of NSW
The centenary of the First World War offers a unique opportunity to revisit the narratives around war and identity that have emerged in Australian history. Since Will Dyson was appointed Australia’s first official war artist in 1917, Australian artists have been critical to the imaging and transmission of Anzac. However, the status of the war artist is inherently problematic. Temporarily commissioned within a highly protected subculture from the outside, their role is to observe, record and memorialise, but they also possess the power to criticise. By focusing on the portrait works of Shaun Gladwell and Ben Quilty in Afghanistan in particular, this paper explores the role of the artist on the modern battlefield and in the media landscape, and ultimately asks how the representation of Australian soldiers in visual culture might destabilise or reinforce the national imagination.

'This book is not what I’m looking for in a book of portraits!’: reflections on 21st-century portraits
Jo Higgins, independent art writer and consultant
This paper reflects on the institutional and theoretical concerns that informed the development and publication of 21st-century portraits. As a book produced by the National Portrait Gallery London, what were some of the political and curatorial considerations that shaped its making? As a survey of contemporary art made since the year 2000, what were some of the significant social, geo-political and art historical developments that had to be addressed? In researching, considering, debating and ultimately writing about this diverse collection of portraits, Jo Higgins suggests that 21st-century portraits – the publication and the art – are ultimately studies, not of the sitter, but of this particular 21st-century moment and its viewer.



Angus Trumble was appointed director of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia in February 2014. Prior to that he was curator of European art at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide and senior curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. He is the author of A brief history of the smile (2003), The finger: a handbook (2010) and, with Andrea Wolk Rager, Edwardian opulence: British art at the dawn of the 20th century (2013).

Mark Ledbury is director of the Power Institute at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on European art of the 18th and early 19th centuries and he has published on artists including Francois Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Jacques-Louis David. His book James Northcote, history painting and the fables will be published in September 2014 to accompany the exhibition Picture talking: James Northcote and his fables at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

Alison Inglis is an associate professor in the art history program at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include 19th-century British and colonial art as well as the history of art museums and exhibitions in Australia. She recently was co-curator, with Patricia Macdonald, of the exhibition For Auld Lang Syne: images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. She is currently working on an ARC Linkage project in partnership with Prof Deirdre Colman, Dr Ted Gott and Dr Vivien Gaston, entitled Human kind: transforming identity in Australian and British portraits 1700-1900 in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Andrew Yip is an art historian and writer and is coordinator of public programs at the Art Gallery of NSW, where he works on exhibition programs and manages tertiary education. His research interests include the art of war and the history of Australian artists in the Middle East. His PhD, A portrait of the nation as a young man: the genesis of Gallipoli mythologies in Australian and Turkish art, examined the role of war art in establishing national and imperial narratives during WWI. His recent work has focused on new media artists of the war on terror.

Jo Higgins is an art writer, digital content specialist and gallery education consultant, and the author of 21st-century portraits. She has just returned from five years in London where she worked for the South London Gallery on the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Project in partnership with Tate, Whitechapel Gallery, Hayward Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts. She has an honours degree in art theory from the College of Fine Arts UNSW and an MA in contemporary art from Manchester University. From 2010 to 2013 she was the UK contributing editor for Artlink magazine.

Image: Shaun Gladwell Double Field/Viewfinder (Tarin Kowt) 2009-10 (detail) dual-channel synchronised high-definition video, 16:9, stereo, colour, 18:39 min © Shaun Gladwell

Saturday 9 August 2014, 10.30am

$60 non-member
$40 member
$30 student
Includes lunch and afternoon drinks

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1878


Become a member

Three full working days (Mon–Fri) notice is required to qualify for a refund. All refunds attract an administration charge of 25% of the ticket price(s) with a minimum charge of $5. Not negotiable.

Duration 5 hours
Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibitions: Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2014, The lost prince and the winter queen

Related program: Portraits at the Gallery 2014