"face to face"
In response to an invitation from the Normandy Impressionist Festival, in 2016 Diep~Haven adopted the theme of the portrait. With the memory of the long pictorial and photographic tradition of this form, artists, in collaboration with local communities and organisations have developed a series of new contemporary portraiture projects, developed and presented in Normandy and Sussex. Continuing the format of previous editions of the festival, the 2016 edition created a trail of exhibitions and events between Newhaven and Dieppe, built around the commissions undertaken by artists in residence and grounded in cultural exchange and artistic experimentation.
Portraiture has always been a tool to confirm identity, prolong memory and allow for self-representation. Although each subject faces a choice in how to present themselves – to look back out of the image or to shy away from the viewer’s gaze – how they are captured at any given moment will reveal their singular identity, but also something of our common humanity. ‘Face to Face’ therefore positioned portraiture as a way to explore our society through its individual members. Identities were expressed and interwoven with the specific interpretation of the artist – their sensitivities to the codes of this form as well as to their own aesthetic language – creating unique representations of people and place.
In the age of digital photography – when anyone can photograph and be photographed – the forms and functions of the portrait continue to evolve and multiply: the passport photograph, the school photo, the family portrait, the profile picture, the selfie. In this context, the work of the artist is to give new meaning to the now commonplace act of taking a photographic portrait, inviting us to relook at each other and to consider who we are, at a time when it is impossible for an individual to exist without reference to their self-representation. Beyond photography, drawing and painting, video and language can also be used in this context as experimental tools to probe the question of what constitutes identity and representation – not to circumscribe it, but to reveal its complexity and diversity.