FACE VALUE by Russell Lumb
Driving home from Redbrick last evening, listening to the radio, and then watching Question Time, it was impossible to miss the current public debate concerning face veils and the rights of British Citizens to wear them, or support/oppose their wearing in various circumstances. My habitual position on minority activities is acceptance, provided that I am not required to take part and that other’s rights remain unaffected, but I find it difficult to sidestep this particular issue because I spend so much time and effort studying, painting and talking about faces.
Accepting that this tiny minority of a minority is not threatening Western commitment to the face, our daily lives are constructed through recognition, communication and response via the sensory powers, mostly located in the head and given expression in our faces. Our language is full of references which clearly establish the high regard given to facial openness; “face up to”, “face to face” “face value”, “to lose face” and, currently, “Face Book” demonstrate the critical importance of face recognition to our social, cultural, commercial and welfare relationships. It is little wonder that this issue generates so much open hostility, even though the objections are rarely articulated, because we sense a perceived attack on our core values.
Western secular and religious art, poetry and literature all have a strong investment in the face, and we artists remain fascinated by the sculptural complexity, variety and expressiveness of the human face and body. The “simple” recording of physical “likeness” is difficult enough, but the ultimate objective of real, personal expression is granted to few. I take you back to my most recent blog comment concerning Tom and Tony’s work on 12 09 2013 to illustrate the wide variety in means of recording the experience, but really to demonstrate our need to see and be moved by the sitter’s face. There is no shortage of faces to observe and paint, formally or informally, and so it seems unreasonable to complain that a few hundreds of the sixty million on these islands are covered from view, but, as an artist, I am committed to all faces, and as a modern human being I am saddened to see open expression and communication limited for whatever reason. But, provided that I am not required to take part………….
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Cathy, David, Hadyn, Ian, Jane, Janet, Kate, Roger H, Roger S,Russell, Sandra, Sue, Tom and featured artist Tony.