New portrait of Lily Cole at The Laing Art Gallery

New portrait of Lily Cole in Jonathan Yeo Portraits at The Laing Art Gallery

A previously unseen portrait of the actor and social entrepreneur Lily Cole will go on show in a new display of work by Jonathan Yeo opening at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, on Saturday, 8 November 2014, running until 1st February 2015. This is one of several major new portraits that will be on display for the first time in the exhibition.

This show is a continuation of the highly successful National Portrait Gallery exhibition, which was also on display at the Lowry, Manchester.

The portrait of Lily Cole depicts her as Helen of Troy, who she played on stage in 2014, in Simon Armitage's Last Days of Troy.

Lily Cole says:

"After over a year of discussion, when we finally organised the sittings, I was playing Helen at the Globe and was inspired by Jonathan’s powerful portrait of Kevin Spacey as Richard III. Jonathan came and watched the play and that became the basis of the portrait. He has done an extraordinary job of capturing my Helen in this image. When I look at it, I do not see myself, I see myself as another. I see Helen and what I came to know of her. I see the strength, the pain, and the penetrating gaze of a woman who has haunted the human imagination for several thousand years since she was understood as the catalyst for war. Perhaps most interestingly, I see her seeing us."

Jonathan Yeo says:

"This painting of Lily Cole is for me the continuation of my interest in creating portraits of significant figures playing roles: in particular, the point where performance takes over from an actor's own personality, which I began to explore with Kevin Spacey in his portrait as Richard III.

“When watching Lily on stage I was struck by her otherworldly presence and how her performance as Helen of Troy seemed to transcend any modern day context, taking the audience to a completely different space. I hope the painting conveys that sense, while at the same time doing what no stage performer ever does: engaging the viewer in a direct gaze. I think this engagement with the viewer, combined with her etherealness, makes the spectator feel at once both confronted by, and strangely intimate with, this powerful character.

“I also wanted to convey the contradictory presence of the performer in the artist's studio, where inevitably her own personality became more present than that of Helen’s. It's always interesting when you're painting someone who in their own right commands so much attention, but it gets even more exciting when they are inhabiting the role of another icon, and so I hope this portrait captures both of the personalities which are at play here.”

Laing Art Gallery


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