Intimate nature of portraiture to be explored in new exhibition

Intimate nature of portraiture to be explored in new exhibition

(picture: Seati, Ilana. The Bride)

Danielle Hewlett and Ilana Seati’s exhibition ‘Face/Figment’ will be showcased at the In Toto Gallery in Birdhaven from January 28 to March 7.
‘Face/Figment’ highlights the intimate nature of portraiture and the strata of interpretation and imagination that can be lain upon the subject’s representation by the artist. For thousands of years, artists have been tasked with the portrayal of others who wished to have their likenesses preserved, and before 1900 portraits were expected to deliver accurate resemblances of their sitters. But as time has moved on, the tradition of Western portrait painting has changed to allow artists to add their own aesthetic ideas to their subjects, resulting in a far more complex image.

Hewlett explores this idea on canvas, mostly in head and shoulder’s style portraits. Working from subjects invited to her studio for photographic sessions, Hewlett had applied her own stories and ideas to their faces, adding shards of colour into the compositions. This personalisation was further complicated by the intimate nature of the sitting, where the subject would tell her their stories, which would in turn influence her work. Each painting in this exhibition has come to represent a specific character in Hewlett’s life story. It is therefore an emotional, self-exploratory body of work; a looking back for the artist and a working-through of interactions and relationships. She tells an intimate story in each piece, and manipulates the image with the part of the mind where history and imagination meet. Hewlett is not interested in the accurate representation of someone’s likeness but is more concerned with a re-imagination of their vibrancy and energy.

The work 'Delicious Monster' Danielle Hewlett

The work ‘Delicious Monster’ Danielle Hewlett

Seati’s artistic manipulation of her subjects stretches further than Hewlett’s into the semi-abstract realm. In this series of studies of the female figure on paper, Seati searches for a greater understanding of intimacy in portrait-making. All of the artworks on this exhibition started from life drawings in studio and were then re-worked privately in her own time, where she adding elements of her imagination and interpretation to the image. Seati examines the concept of truth and fantasy in her works and, in particular, she looks at the way in which we move across the boundaries of reality and fiction in our lives, suggesting that occasionally figments of our imagination are, in fact, reality and vice versa.

* In Toto Gallery is situated at Birdhaven Centre, 66 st. Andrew Street, Birdhaven.
Gallery hours are from 9am to 5pm, Mondays to Fridays; and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.
For more information, call 011 447 6543; send an email to; or visit